Just joined a new team or are considering one? How do you know whether it is a good fit?
Here are 5 things to consider: other players, other parents, the coach, the team feel, your own kid.
- Does your kid fit in?
- Can she keep up with the play?
- Do her skills blend with the activities at practice?
- Do the others talk to her, include her, pass the ball to her?
- How long have they been with the team?
- What would they say about the experience?
- What have they liked most? liked least?
- Is communication healthy?
- Are the sidelines a comfortable place to enjoy a game?
Soccer parents, sought out for their personal opinions, are some of the most honest creatures on the planet. Thank them for their input, but guard it and file it under “to be considered when I have all the input.”
The coach … talk to him or her.
- Schedule a few minutes to chat with the coach about his style, his philosophy, his qualifications. Resist the urge to tell him what your child can do.
- Ask about what he sees in her. A good coach will see things in your soccer-playing child that you have a hard time seeing from your parental viewpoint. Be open and listen.
ALSO, watch him or her – not only at practice but at a game or two. Not only when the team is ahead but also when they are behind.
- Does he teach the game?
- Does he talk more than show?
- Can he demonstrate skills and points accurately and effectively?
- Does he sub in groups, individually, or does he stick with his starters until the game is decided?
- When players come off, how does he greet them? How do they respond?
The “team” feel, style and environment – this is intangible but oh so important. It’s the team culture, the “how we do things here” that intuition and a keen observer can take in just by watching how things run.
- Do things run on time or does everyone amble in late?
- Are expectations clear or questioned? the same for everyone?
- Who takes charge? Authoritarian? Democratic?
- Does it seem…Boisterous? Calm? Energetic? Painful? Forced? Fun?
- Positive and encouraging? Negative and demeaning?
- Does it feel like what’s planted here will thrive?
Beware of the tendency to want to “fit in” if you don’t. If the feel is not a good one, then fitting in might come at a great cost.
Your kid is your number one concern. Ask him or her:
- What did you think of the players, the coach, the team?
- How did you feel playing with them? (don’t lead the witness here)
- Do not ask, “do you want to play for this team?” They’re kids; of course they want to be picked.
- Do not suggest, “that was so nice of that girl to….”
- Don’t advise, “You just have to let that go; some kids are like that.”
Let everything speak for itself and give your kid permission to be completely truthful. Help them look at the whole experience and discover what they value in a team and in teammates. Help them make a list of the pros and cons. There are always both. Help them weigh how they feel. Then, if they’re invited to join the team, they can decide. Their yes or no, will be theirs.
Resist the urge to focus on the level of the team, its record or rankings. If the environment will be competitive for playing time, talk about that. Very few kids really want to join a team where all they will do is practice with little hope of playing in the games. If that is the case, there is another place for your kid to play.
Finally, ask yourself… what is the reason my kid is playing youth soccer (or youth sports of any sort)? If any of your answers start with you, shove them aside. Ask your kid why he or she plays. There are plenty of okay answers…
- and more
The best answer I know is your honest answer to this question:
Is this sports experience helping my kid become a better kid?
If both you and an unbiased observer can answer yes to that question, you’ve found a good team, a good sport and a great place to play. Play on.