Being a soccer parent can be a huge role and responsibility in your child’s life. But it can also be incredibly exciting and rewarding if you approach it in the right way. I’m a dad with two daughters, and I’ve also seen hundreds, if not thousands, of soccer games throughout my life.
These 11 tips for being a great soccer parent are from my experience, as well as reflections on what I’ve seen work well and will help your child be the best soccer player they can be while enjoying the game.
Take the time to read them and apply them, and you’ll hopefully be enjoying the feeling of being a great soccer parent in no time at all!
Let’s look at the tips now!
1. Encourage Your Child
If you do nothing else as a soccer parent, I would encourage you to follow this tip. Encourage your child. Every child needs encouragement, and as their parent, your encouragement will often mean the most to them.
Praise and encouragement of children have often been shown to be great motivators. It can build their self-esteem and encourage them to keep going and improve. Just make sure it’s sincere and not put on. Children can often tell! [source]
Be patient with your child as well. Improvement and development take time. But as you see them progress, be sure to tell them.
Some examples of ways to encourage your child:
- Praise their efforts both on the training ground and in games. Even if what they attempted didn’t work, you can still praise the fact that they gave it a go.
- Point out what they did well and help them focus on that
- Recognize ways and areas where they are improving
- Let them know you enjoyed watching them play
- Encourage them to take risks and learn through experience
- Help them set achievable goals, keep them accountable to them, and compliment and celebrate when they achieve those goals.
One way you can encourage the players other than your child is to look out for any kids who don’t have a parent or caregiver there watching them play. It can be hard for them to see and hear the other children’s parents cheering them on, but knowing no one is there for them. Take the time to encourage them once in a while.
2. Remember – You’re Not the Coach
This tip is right up at the top of the list because it’s the one where most soccer parents fall down and make mistakes.
If you’ve ever been to any youth sports event, not just soccer, I’m sure you’ve seen that parent who spends the whole game thinking they should be the coach, and they know much better than anyone else what should be happening. Not only is it embarrassing to watch, but it’s just not helpful!
In many situations, you are not only already paying the actual coach of your child’s team to be the coach, but the chances are that the coach is probably far more qualified than you are to advise the kids on what they should or shouldn’t be doing.
If you want your child to listen to any coaching advice, the only thing you should be doing is directing them to listen to what their coach is asking of them.
During a game, the best thing you can do is stick to tip number 1 and just give out encouragement. One thing you will know better than the coach is the best way to encourage your child. You know them better than anyone else and know how they respond best to encouragement.
However, if you are unable to stop coaching from the sidelines, at least take the time to ask the coach what message he wants to get across to the kids and reinforce that. Maybe even listen carefully to what the coach is saying throughout the game and support them.
But, as much as you are able, just encourage your child and leave the tactics to the coach.
3. Practice With Your Child
Spending time practicing with your kid is one of the best things you can do to be a great soccer parent.
If you are unsure what to do during practice with your child, I highly recommend signing up for an online soccer course such as this one from Udemy.com.
- The Ultimate Soccer Guide from Udemy.com has over 200 hundred positive reviews from people who have completed the course and seen the difference it can make.
This course offers extensive soccer training advice that is great for both beginners and more advanced players and can simply be fun to work through together as parent and child. Practicing and even learning together through one of these courses can be great for you both.
It’s even available at an incredibly low price!
Check out the Udemy soccer course by clicking here, and the link will take you straight to the website of the course on offer.
Another way you can practice with your child is to take the advice of your child’s soccer coach.
A good coach will give your child things to work on and practice each week. Take the time to work on these things with your child. Even if you aren’t great at them yourself, don’t worry! Your child will just love having you there working on the training program with you.
Ask the coach how your child can improve and how you, as a parent, can help. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of advice and tips to offer.
And remember to take time just to play for fun with your child. Don’t make every second of training an intense practice time. Spend time just kicking the ball around and enjoying yourself.
For more resources on ways to practice:
- check out my post on the 10 Best Soccer Drills for Beginners
- or my post on 10 Easy Soccer Tricks and Skills
Both these pages come with an easy step-by-step guide to the drills, tricks, and skills.
4. Know the Rules of the Game
To really be a great soccer parent, you need to know the rules of the game. This will go a long way to understanding not only what is happening but also what your child’s role is in it all.
If you’re only a beginner to soccer it can seem overwhelming at first but to help you out with this I’ve written a Simple and Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer which includes a downloadable cheat sheet that you can carry with you to the next soccer game. You can get to that by clicking here.
It will also be helpful to understand how the positions, formations, and player roles work in soccer, so I’ve created a guide to all that and more here.
Take the time to read over these and become familiar with the rules and roles of players in soccer and I’m sure you’ll find you’ll not only appreciate and enjoy the game of soccer far more but also understand how to be the best soccer parent for your kid.
5. Debrief With Your Child
When the game is over, your child has finished with the coach and their team, they come back to you. Although the coach will have given feedback to the team, you get to process the game with your child.
This can be a great opportunity to go over everything that happened in the game and figure out how to learn from what happened as well as accept any mistakes that may have been made.
Just make sure you are careful and sensitive about the timing of this. Sometimes, if your child has had a bad game, they might not want to talk about it straight away and just need encouragement and reminding of what they did right.
Remember, you know your child best to make a judgment based on your own experience of what’s best for your child.
The idea of debriefing anything is to have the opportunity to self-correct and figure out how to move forward and improve. Don’t just give your child your opinions, but ask open questions that allow them space to think and process.
Here are some questions you may want to ask them. Remember to give them time and space to answer and try to ask follow up questions based on their responses.
- What did they enjoy?
- What did they find hard?
- What could they do better next time?
- How will they improve?
6. Forget the Other Kids
Here’s what I mean by this: You are there for your child. The other kids have there own parents or caregivers there for them. The other kids don’t need you telling them what to do, or how to play better, or what you think. And they definitely don’t need to hear anything negative from you.
Keep your thoughts about any other kid to yourself and if you are going to interact with any of the other children only offer encouragement or affirmation.
Too often, you hear a parent speaking negatively about or to another kid on the soccer field. Not only is this terrible soccer etiquette for a soccer parent but it is unnecessary and detrimental to the child.
As a parent you only need to be focussing on your own child and what they are doing. Let the coach or the other children’s parents or caregivers worry about the other children.
7. Get the Right Equipment for Your Child
Getting the right equipment for your child can make a big difference.
My article The 6 Pieces of Equipment you need for Soccer will show you what equipment your child needs, but you also need to make sure you purchase good quality equipment for your child.
Playing soccer with a low-quality ball or low-quality cleats is going to make everything your child does much harder as those products aren’t designed or intended to optimize a soccer player’s performance in the way a higher quality product can.
Do what you can to get your child the best equipment possible. And the good news is that high quality doesn’t always mean more expensive. There is some great soccer equipment out there that is very affordable.
To help you track down the best equipment I created a Recommended soccer equipment page which you can check out. On that page, I’ve listed a range of soccer equipment that I think is high quality and you should consider purchasing for your child.
I will list a few items here though that you should have a look at. I’ve also provided links to the products on soccer.com as they are a dedicated soccer equipment store that provides great service, great prices, and quick delivery.
If you’re willing to pay a bit more and purchase some higher quality soccer cleats check out the Nike Junior Mercurial Superfly 8 Elite FG Soccer Cleats on soccer.com are superb cleats that any child would be proud of wearing and enjoy playing in.
If you’re looking for shin guards the G-Form Youth Pro-S Compact Soccer Shin Guards on Amazon.com are extremely effective and comfortable to wear.
A great yet affordable soccer ball is the Adidas Capitano Soccer Ball also on Amazon.
And every soccer player needs to stay hydrated. The 32 oz Camelbak Reign Water Bottle is a perfect bottle for your child to use.
8. Get the Right Equipment for Yourself
Once you have the right equipment for your child, you should take a little time to think about what you need.
As you know, one part of the role of a parent is to make sure your child has what they need. As a quick guide, I would say make sure you take the following items to each soccer game:
- Your child’s soccer equipment including: jersey, shorts, socks, cleats, shin guards, and a ball to warm up with.
- A towel to dry off with if it’s raining
- Sunscreen if the sun is out
- Washbag for after the game
- Water (lots!)
- Healthy snacks for halftime and after
Carry around all this stuff can be hard work so I would recommend you get hold of a sports bag such as this one on soccer.com. It even has a ventilated section for those smelly cleats at the end of the game!
When it comes to what you as a parent need, it partly depends on your own preferences but there are a few things I would suggest:
- Blankets for when it’s cold
- Umbrella for rainy days
- Snacks for you
- Insulated mug with drink
- and definitely a portable chair for the sideline.
I’ve seen parents bring many different types of chairs to soccer games but if you are looking for the most comfortable chair for watching soccer I would suggest this one on Amazon. For a chair with a canopy to keep the sun (or rain) off then check out this one on Amazon. And if you just want a good, high-quality chair I would choose this one, also from Amazon.
9. Be Prepared to Give Your Time
Being a soccer parent is probably going to take up a good amount of your time. The sooner you accept this and roll with it the sooner you will enjoy the experience.
There will be training sessions to go to, games both local and far away, practices with friends, and practice time at home with you.
Unfortunately, the majority of these are necessary if your child is to keep improving in their soccer skills, but these times can be great fun, enjoyable, and a great way to connect with your child if you embrace them.
If you do find the time commitment frustrating or particularly hard try and focus on what you appreciate about them and how it benefits you and your child.
Don’t feel you have to be pushed around though. At times I’ve seen some soccer coaches expect an unrealistic time commitment from the parents. In these cases make sure you set some clear boundaries and manage the time commitment it requires rather than be managed by it. You are the child’s parent and are ultimately responsible for them. Do what you need to maintain a healthy level of commitment.
10. Show Your Child How to Lose Well
Whether you like it or not losing is a part of soccer. Unless a game ends in a tie one team has to lose and that’s ok.
It’s the chance to win a game that makes soccer so exciting to play and watch and in many cases, it’s the fear of losing that drives a player onto win. In fact, the former hockey player Brett Hull is quoted as saying:
“Losing is essential to anyone’s success. The more you lose the more you want to win.”Brett Hull
The feeling of losing a game is often all the motivation a player needs to go on and work hard to win next time.
For your child, this can be hard to understand. They don’t want to lose and they don’t know how to use that loss to improve and become a better player. That is where you come in as a parent.
No matter who you are you have far more life experience and knowledge about how to lose well and pick yourself back up than your child. You may not be close to being perfect at it (I know I’m not!) but chances are you know more than your child about this and your child needs you to help them see this.
So next time your child is on the losing side of a soccer game show them how to lose well. Demonstrate to them how they should be reacting. Your child will be looking to you and too many parents are showing their children unhealthy ways of responding.
Some examples of how to do this are:
- Be aware of your own words and actions. I’ve seen many parents angry and verbally frustrated when their child loses, but they seem to have forgotten that their child is watching everything they are doing. If you don’t want your child to act like this then show them a better way. Even if that just means holding your tongue and saying nothing at all until you’ve calmed down.
- Help your child focus on what they can do better next time. It’s easy for them to only think about the game they just lost. Help them switch their focus to the next game and what they can do better. Go back to tip number 5 and use those debrief questions.
- Instead of complaining about something that your child had no control over, such as a decision of the referee or action of an opponent that caused the team to lose, focus on what your child does have control over – their own actions and choices. Feel free to challenge them and talk about their mistakes but don’t be unnecessarily harsh. They need your encouragement especially when they’ve just lost.
11. Enjoy Yourself
This last tip may seem obvious or cliche but it’s actually important. To be a great soccer parent you are going to have to enjoy your child’s involvement with soccer.
As we already mentioned in tip number 9 being a soccer parent is going to take up a good amount of your time and energy. If you don’t already enjoy it then, for your kid’s sake, find ways to enjoy yourself.
When you are enjoying it your child will enjoy themselves more. When a parent clearly doesn’t want to be there and is unhappy the chances are that their child will soon not want to be there either.
The easiest way to enjoy yourself is to simply enjoy watching the soccer game. If you can do this every game will be fun. But if you just don’t enjoy the game then find some other ways to enjoy the time.
Some suggestions I would make for you to enjoy your child’s soccer involvement would be:
- Focus on the fact that your child is doing something they enjoy or want to be doing. Share in their enjoyment of the game and enjoy your time with them.
- If you like talking with other people strike up a conversation with the other parents who are the game and you may start to enjoy your weekly chat with the others at the game.
- Although, the ideal situation is to watch and engage with your child’s soccer game maybe you just need to bring a book to read or music to listen to while they play. I’ve seen some parents enjoy listening to a podcast while their kid plays.
As I said at the beginning of this article, being a soccer parent can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
As with anything in life, the more you put into something the more you will get out of it. If you embrace the opportunity for all it’s worth you will gain so much from it yourself as well as providing the opportunity for your child to learn about teamwork, hard work, and skill involved in playing a team sport such as soccer.
If like me, you have a daughter you may want to check out my list of the 30 Most Inspirational Soccer Quotes for Girls. These can be incredibly encouraging for any female soccer player.
Alternatively, if your child is a goalie then click here to check out my article explaining the 8 Rules for Soccer Goalies.