Be a Great Soccer Parent: Tips From Skye Eddy Bruce
Skye Eddy Bruce is the founder of SoccerParenting.com, a site dedicated to providing the best information available for parents on how to navigate the world of youth soccer. Being a soccer parent and coach herself, she has many years of experience in dealing with everything within the youth soccer circuit.
As a player, she was a First Team All-American goalkeeper and was named Defensive MVP of the NCAA Final Four while at George Mason.
She was kind enough to talk with Football.com about the biggest questions and issues facing youth soccer parents today.
1. You’ve discussed the Parent-Coach communication divide plenty of times on SoccerParenting.com. What are some of the main reasons why that divide exists?
Skye: I discuss a number or reasons in my article, The Parent-Coach Communication Divide. The article mostly focuses on things the coach can do to bridge the gap between coaches and parents, but I do think that the mission of SoccerParenting.com speaks to another issue.
First, the coaches’ side:
- Lack of clear guidelines and education for coaches regarding communication with parents.
Parent communication is just starting to be a concept that is addressed on a micro-level through club policies and at a more macro level through national certification coaching education. Coaches need guidelines and education on how and when to communicate, how to discuss sensitive issues such as playing time and positional choices, conducting player evaluations and in setting appropriate boundaries between parents and themselves.
Second, the parents’ side:
- Lack of confidence on the part of parents that leads to lack of communication.
The mission of SoccerParenting.com is to educate and empower parents of elite players so they can feel more confident as they support their child’s athletic endeavors. Coaches and parents have the same ultimate goal: To positively affect the lives of the children.
With that in mind, we need to collaborate. If your coach is not communicating adequately or often enough, speak up! If your club doesn’t have Communication Guidelines – suggest they create them. If your team doesn’t have once or twice a year player evaluations between the coach and player and parent – encourage them to!
2. What are some ways that parents can more effectively communicate with coaches when it comes to discussing their child’s playing time, skill development, etc.?
Skye: The essential first component to effectively communicating with coaches when it comes to your child’s playing time, skill development, etc., is making sure your child is playing for a coach you trust. If the coach is someone you trust with your child’s technical and tactical development, then the communication is much easier.
The essential second component to effectively communicating with coaches is parents believing “The Thing I Know for Sure” after watching my child grow and develop into an elite player: It is impossible for a parent – even a coach/parent - to properly evaluate their own child. All the more reason why you want a coach you trust working with your child!
Three quick guidelines for effectively communicating with a coach:
- Set up an appointment to talk to the coach – do not attempt to talk to them after a game or practice when you are frustrated or upset.
- Your child should be, if age appropriate, leading/a part of the conversation. If your child doesn’t want to be a part of the conversation, then you need to ask yourself if the issues you are feeling are yours, or your child’s?
- Don’t make statements, ask open-ended questions.
3. You published a widely shared article that focused on reasons why parents shouldn’t watch their child’s practices. Can you give us the main reasoning behind that suggestion?
Skye: I think the best way to think about parents not attending practices is to imagine what would happen if parents attended school with their children. Our presence – even if we sat quietly next to the doorway - would affect our children and the teachers, in many ways.
While I think it’s fine to watch practices now and then, and I personally enjoy watching the last 10 or 15 minutes of training on the days I pick up my child, I strongly believe it’s essential to our child’s athletic development that we allow them to develop an identity within the game that is free of our involvement.
If we sat in the doorway of their classroom everyday and silently observed school, I think it’s safe to say our child would identify and act differently as a student than if we were not there.
4. How have parents responded to the idea? Have you received feedback from those that have started trying it?
Skye: It’s interesting to look over the responses I received to the article. It was so widely shared that many people who read it didn’t realize that the intended audience was parents of elite soccer players. I can understand why parents of young, recreation level players would not have agreed with the article.
That being said, I received much wonderful feedback from parents who started using practice time for themselves by starting a Parent Running Club and some from parents who, like myself, saw the benefit (and joy) in hearing about training from the perspective of their child instead of watching it themselves.
5. The college selection process can be difficult for players and parents alike, so how can the latter best help their child when it comes to identifying the right school?
Skye: I am working on a few SoccerParenting articles about playing in college and finding the right fit in terms of academics, athletics, cost and location. It’s a challenging situation, for sure.
I think the best way to answer this question is to mention the biggest mistake I see players making when it comes to college choices: Choosing a school that does not meet their academic standards or their athletic standards (maybe they are not as competitive or focused as the player wants) because they offer them a scholarship.
Parents must not let this happen.
6. Soccer tryouts can be just as nerve-racking for parents as players. What advice would you give to parents who are dealing with a child that didn’t make the team?
Skye: Generally, I think one of the most important components of player development is that each player participate and compete at an appropriate level. Sometimes it’s good to be stretched and get out of your comfort zone and sometimes it’s good to be the leader on the team and build your confidence. If your child didn’t make the team, your top priority needs to be finding an appropriate team for them with a coach you trust at the helm.
Specifically, I don’t think I can answer your question better than Dr. Elizabeth Vantre did in her widely shared SoccerParenting article: Seven Things Parents Must Do if Your Child Does Not Make the Team.
7. Any additional advice on how parents can stay away from the “Crazy Soccer Parent” label and get more enjoyment out of watching their child make strides within the sport?
Skye: I do use the term “Crazy Soccer Parent” quite a bit at SoccerParenting. I think it’s a term all of us can relate to in that we have all probably, as some time or another, veered close to that label. I know I have. And, sadly, we all can probably think of one or two parents who fit that description on a regular basis – for which there’s probably little we can do to help.
For those level headed parents out there who struggle with the Crazy Soccer Parent mentality now and then, I think two things are essential:
- Let your child develop their athletic mentality at their own pace, and become who they want to become within the game.
Some children, at the age of 10, will set a personal goal to juggle the ball 1000 times and will spend and entire weekend outside juggling until they do so. For other 10 year olds, the idea of a goal will never cross their mind.
For parents who struggle with this – check out my article: 5 Steps to Helping Our Child Develop a Growth Mindset.
- Recognize there are physical limitations at the higher levels of the game.
As much as they may want to make the top team, if they are one of the slower and smaller players and struggle to keep up athletically – they most likely can’t play at the higher level (depending on the depth of the higher level team, of course). It’s essential for a parent to recognize and embrace your child’s physical abilities so there’s not constant pressure and stress about being on a team that is not the appropriate level.
And, a BONUS way to avoid being a Crazy Soccer Parent:
- Find a coach you trust.