Coaching Letter For Parents

By Jeff Pill

The role that parents play in the life of a soccer player has a tremendous impact on their experience. With this in mind, we have taken some time to write down some helpful reminders for all of us as we approach the upcoming season. If you should have any questions about these thoughts, please feel free to discuss it with us, the coaches.

  1. Let the coaches coach: Leave the coaching to the coaches. This includes motivating, psyching your child for practice, after game critiquing, setting goals, requiring additional training, etc. You have entrusted the care of your player to these coaches and they need to be free to do their job. If a player has too many coaches, it is confusing for him and his performance usually declines.
  2. Support the program: Get involved. Volunteer. Help out with fundraisers, car-pool; anything to support the program.
  3. Be you child’s best fan: Support your child unconditionally. Do not withdraw love when your child performs poorly. Your child should never have to perform to win your love.
  4. Support and root for all players on the team: Foster teamwork. Your child’s teammates are not the enemy. When they are playing better than your child, your child now has a wonderful opportunity to learn.
  5. Do not bribe or offer incentives: Your job is not to motivate. Leave this to the coaching staff. Bribes will distract your child from properly concentrating in practice and game situations.
  6. Encourage your child to talk with the coaches: If your child is having difficulties in practice or games, or can’t make a practice, etc., encourage them to speak directly to the coaches. This “responsibility taking” is a big part of becoming a big-time player. By handling the off-field tasks, your child is claiming ownership of all aspects of the game – preparation for as well as playing the game.
  7. Understand and display appropriate game behavior: Remember, your child’s self esteem and game performance is at stake. Be supportive, cheer, be appropriate. To perform to the best of his abilities, a player needs to focus on the parts of the game that they can control (his fitness, positioning, decision making, skill, aggressiveness, what the game is presenting them). If he starts focusing on what he can not control (the condition of the field, the referee, the weather, the opponent, even the outcome of the game at times), he will not play up to his ability. If he hears a lot of people telling him what to do, or yelling at the referee, it diverts his attention away from the task at hand.
  8. Monitor your child’s stress level at home: Keep an eye on the player to make sure that they are handling stress effectively from the various activities in his life.
  9. Monitor eating and sleeping habits: Be sure your child is eating the proper foods and getting adequate rest.
  10. Help your child keep his priorities straight: Help your child maintain a focus on schoolwork, relationships and the other things in life beside soccer. Also, if your child has made a commitment to soccer, help him fulfill his obligation to the team.
  11. Reality test: If your child has come off the field when his team has lost, but he has played his best, help him to see this as a “win”. Remind him that he is to focus on “process” and not “results”. His fun and satisfaction should be derived from “striving to win”. Conversely, he should be as satisfied from success that occurs despite inadequate preparation and performance.
  12. Keep soccer in its proper perspective: Soccer should not be larger than life for you. If your child’s performance produces strong emotions in you, suppress them. Remember your relationship will continue with your children long after their competitive soccer days are over. Keep your goals and needs separate from your child’s experience.
  13. Have fun: That is what we will be trying to do! We will try to challenge your child to reach past their “comfort level” and improve themselves as a player, and thus, a person. We will attempt to do this in environments that are fun, yet challenging. We look forward to this process. We hope you do to!

Jeff Pill is the college soccer coordinator for Maranatha Baptist University, serving as the men’s soccer coach and overseeing the women’s team. Before coming to Maranatha, In addition to his USSF “A” License, a NSCAA Advanded National Diploma, and a National Youth License for coaching, Pill’s awards include five New Hampshire Coach of the Year awards, Sportsman of the Year, New Hampshire Senior All-Star Coach, and the President’s Award from the New Hampshire Soccer Association. Pill has served on the New Hampshire Senior All-Star Selection Committee, Vice President for the New Hampshire Coaches Association, a technical reporter for FIFA during the 1994 and 1999 World Cup games, and Director of Coaching for New Hampshire.

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How Does a Hitter “Know” Himself?

All the players’ experiences playing baseball go into this equation. He is the sum total of every pitch, every at-bat, every inning he has ever played. And over this time frame, he has learned what “type” hitter he is. “Types” fit into three groups. “Contact/singles hitters” for the smaller, fleet-of-foot player, “line dive gap hitters” who possess average-to-good foot speed and occasional power, and “pure power” types that don’t run very well, but have true long ball potential. Most hitters fit into these three types, and knowing where YOU fit in, goes a long way in determining your two-strike hitting plan. My experience suggests that approximately 70% of players fall into the “line drive/gap” type and 15% in both the “singles/contact” and “pure power” categories.

“Cloning” Hitters

While we’re on this subject of hitting “types,” this is probably as good a time as any for all us instructors/coaches to get on the same “page.” Because most hitters fall into these three types, we MUST be sensitive to the fact that not everyone can do what we teach. As instructors, we have to adjust our hitting knowledge—and what we teach—to the player and his intrinsic ability. Sadly, many times I tutor players who confide that their coach teaches everyone the “same” mechanics, regardless of size, strength, or foot speed. We must guard against allowing ourselves to be caught up in this potentially harmful practice.

Last summer, a college player from the University of ****** came for lessons. He was a big, strapping kid. 6’4″ and 240 pounds. Strong as an ox. I asked him to take a few dry swings for me. After watching him, I told him I was really “excited.” He asked why, and I told him I very rarely come in contact with a player as strong as he—and with such great foot speed.

He looked at me, incredulously, and blurted that he had NO foot speed whatsoever. So I asked him why he swings “down” at the ball if he can’t run. He said that’s what his coach taught, and EVERYONE had to hit the same way. Players 5’4″ were taught to hit the same way as players 6’4″! I know you’re smiling at this point and saying, “Yeah, Mike, but that isn’t ME. I don’t do that.” Think again. It runs rampant in baseball. What a terrible waste of ability!

His coach, possibly unaware of the consequences of his actions, was keeping this player from realizing his “dream.” I told him I had no interest in teaching him a technique that would upset his coach, and perhaps cast him in an unfavorable light in his eyes. He said he wasn’t worried about that; his dream was to play professional baseball. Over the next seven days, this player learned mechanics more suited to his “type.” He returned to school and hit 9 home runs in the fall. No one else on his team had more than two. At the conclusion of “fall ball,” his coach came up to him and said he didn’t like his swing. He wanted him to go back to swinging down—the mechanics he taught.

While we’re on this subject, it is interesting to note, as a “general” rule, ALL hitting types become “singles/contact” hitters with two strikes. Because, for the most part, we don’t come to bat, every at-bat, where we represent the winning run. More often than not, we must do some things mechanically which will allow us to put the ball in play. Contact—not power—becomes the name of the game with two strikes.

Prior to Mike’s teaching years, he was an All-American baseball player and still holds the highest lifetime batting average of .384 at the University of California (Berkeley). He was a member of the first United States Olympic Baseball Team, leading the team in many offensive hitting categories (Japan, 1964). He was named the Sporting News and Topps Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 1966.His website is  http://www.mikeepsteinhitting.com/

Whole Child Sports

We stumbled upon this organization, which we’d never heard of. At first glance, it looks like they’re doing great work. We’ll be bringing you more from them down the road. Do you know of any organizations dedicated to helping young athletes and their parents cope with the demands of today’s sports landscape? Let us know.

Divide team into smaller groups

One of the cardinal sins of a youth sports coach is to run boring drills and force kids to stand in line waiting a turn. They need to be active and engaged at all times, lest they become restless and inattentive. A great way to ensure lots of action and repetition is to break the team into smaller groups, each group working on a different skill. CoachDeck is the perfect tool to help coaches in this regard. A coach who has a CoachDeck can pull a card out of the deck, give it to an assistant coach and say, “Will you take those four kids over there and do this drill?” and give another helper another card and ask, “Will you take this group over there and do this?” After 15 minutes or so, rotate stations so that all players participate in all of the activities. This means there will be less standing in line and more actual playing and getting better which means increased team improvement and player involvement and enjoyment.

Another reason leagues need CoachDeck

Here is a basketball league that is crying out for volunteer coaches and which might have to turn youngsters who want to play away due to lack of support. Give them a CoachDeck! The reason most parents don’t coach is NOT because they can’t find the time…its because they’re scared! They feel like they’ll do a bad job and will look inept. No one wants to look foolish. But what we’re hearing from leagues and associations everywhere is that when you give a coach like this a CoachDeck you’ve given them a shot in the arm of confidence because they know everything they’re doing with the kids is fundamentally sound. Not only do more kids come back to play each year because they better-enjoyed the experience, but more coaches return because they felt they did a good job. Give your coaches a CoachDeck and watch your league thrive!

More on soccer headers

On the heels of the US Soccer Federation’s proclamation that soccer-playing children under the age of 10 should not be allowed to header balls comes this article about Cindy Parlow Cone courtesy of CNN.com. Parents and children need to be careful.

First night of college hoops!

We love NCAA sports…especially football and basketball. And today’s first day of college basketball, the opening tip on the road to the Final Four has us fired-up! There’s a great slate of games on tap. Check your local listings and enjoy Friday evening by the hardwood!