It’s strange how much we have to remind ourselves that youth soccer is “supposed to be fun”.
Our parents have to remind us to “have fun” and coaches feel the need to tell us,
“Remember: go out there and have fun.”
Did I miss something? Is fun something kids have to be trained for and constantly reminded of because they seem to lose that skill over time?
I always thought that fun is a child’s natural state.
My kids are 6 and 8 and when they come to me and say,
“We’re bored. What should we do?”
I say, “Go be kids”.
And sure enough, I’ll find them a few minutes later having created a wolf den out of an Amazon box and they’re hunting wolves with sticks/lightsabers they found outside. Children naturally slide into the state known as “play”. It’s literally their essence.
And we take that from them in so many ways at such an early age. When I have spoken to groups of professional players, I’ll often ask,
“When did the game become work?”
And they often respond with numbers like age 6, 7 or 8. Think about that?
Said more simply, a child is a child until they are no longer a child….or until we make them grow up.
The good news is that this problem is solvable.
We can create a world where parents and coaches and directors and board members of youth clubs have a profound understanding and respect for a child’s need to play. It begins with turning our educational energies away from the kids for a while and turning it towards our parents and coaches.
For once, let’s develop parents that are awake and healthy in their approach to youth soccer.
Let’s develop coaches who understand the multi-dimensional psychology of how kids grow and develop into healthy adults.
With great power comes great responsibility, remember? We as the adults here need to take responsibility for the damage we do to kids in our desperation to make them AWESOME.
SoccerGrlProbs and Ianni Training are committed to this mission.
Seth is a Writer, Life Coach, and Soccer Coach from Seattle, WA. His work has primarily focused on helping people deal with anxiety, depression, and other experiential struggles as they play out in work, sports, and family life. He is a keynote speaker for Major League Soccer on issues of identity and life/work balance in their athletes and is the author of On Frame: Exploring the Depths of Parenting in the World of Youth Soccer as well as The Coaching Revolution: An Interactive Guide to Finding Joy and Excellence in Coaching.