Lessons Learned Across 5 Decades: Soccer Player, Coach, and Parent

by CoachZ on September 10, 2013

Soccer from Three Perspectives: Coach, Player, and Parent (Soccer Dad)

Every Child is a Winner When

Players – Play

Coaches – Coach

Parents – Cheer

CoachZ and Hurricanes Pre Soccer Match Strategy Spring 2013

“Just have fun!”

I’ve been playing soccer for 50 years, on and off. I’ve been coaching on and off for 30. I started playing soccer during recess because the school I went to, The Roeper School, a school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, didn’t allow the students to play American football. In fact, if you check out their website today (see link above), they’ve continued to offer soccer rather than American football.

I’ve played soccer on and off since the fourth grade…you can do the math!

My son started playing soccer in Bay Village, Ohio at the age of 6 and played until he was able to switch to American football, as a Bay High freshman. Even then, he decided he liked punting and kicking…so I guess there was a small victory for Dear ‘Ole Dad!

Naturally, once Jack Jr. (April 21, 1976 to July 1, 2012) started playing football, I found other pursuits…at least until his sisters decided they wanted to give soccer, basketball, softball, and track a try. I coached all three of my daughters across all four sports, to one degree of another, but they all fell in love with soccer.

Thank goodness!

While all of my teams did extremely well, coaching basketball and softball weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Please, don’t get me wrong! While I loved the players and the games, I just didn’t see myself, or my daughters for that matter, sticking with either basketball or softball long term.

And in fact, it was probably a good thing the girls picked up soccer…because I don’t think the boys could have withstood the pounding and the defeat if they’d decided to play American football!

I have a US Soccer D license and my girls played their way from community rec soccer in the Lorain County coed league to premier or club soccer for Mentor Impact under Ali Kazemaini (see image below). When the girls were ready, they moved on and up to win spots on their respective OYSA-N state teams as starters. As members of their age-appropriate state teams, they attended ODP Midwest Regional Camp over the course of several years.

Ali Kazemaini - MISL Stars, Mentor Impact, CSU Head Mens Soccer Coach

Additionally, they were members of the Bay Village High School Girls Varsity Ohio High School State Championship teams…a couple of times. Finally, two of my daughters played NCAA DI soccer, both highly recruited and both on scholarship!


The Reason for The Not-So-Brief History of Z Family Soccer?

To bring home a few points:

I have seen it all when it comes to player, coach, and parent behavior where youth soccer is concerned…and I’m talking U5 through U19!

I’ve watched U9 parents at a tournament in Ashland, Ohio pace the touchline, ranting and raving about playing time, the referees, the coaches, and even the play of their own children!

I watched a U12 parent reach through the net during an indoor match and grab an opposing player by the jersey!

I’ve watched coaches try in vain to coach their players while their players’ parents were doing everything humanly possible to coach, out-coach, correct, and even belittle the coach who was doing his or her best to coach their child’s team!

I’ve watched children cry, shutdown, and even quit the game altogether because of the incredible pressure, complete with the all-too-familiar ride home coaching session/rant…at U5-6-7 and at U16-17-18…a parent has exerted.

I watched as one of the most gifted soccer players I’d ever watched play the game ripped up a letter offering a full scholarship to the university program the player’s father had always dreamed his son would, someday, play for. The young man went to the school he wanted to attend instead…and played the sport he chose to play instead. The relationship between father and son was severed, forever!

Can you imagine the history, the hostility it took?

Can you imagine the years of parental pre-match lectures?

Can you imagine the coaching and correction from the touchline and the stands?

Can you possibly imagine the rants endured on the ride home?

And finally, can you imagine the suffering in silence growing into white hot hatred endured? Suffering that would transform a game loved into something else. Suffering that would transform a child of 4 or 5 years of age, excited to play and to please the father he loved, a father who was bigger than life, into something else. Suffering that would, ultimately, drive that little boy, now a young man, to the point where he waits for just the right moment…and then drives a dagger into his persecutor’s heart.

He drove the dagger the heart of his own father!

Melodramatic? Absolutely not!

Not only did it happen, I’ll bet it happens more than anyone knows…and certainly more than anyone is willing to admit!

Fortunately, the opposite scenario is, at least in my experience, more common. And the results, more than wonderful!

I’ve watched lifelong friendships begin, grow, and flourish.

I’ve watched parents take an active, supporting, and loving role in their sons’ and daughters’ lives through soccer.

I’ve watched perhaps thousands of men and women give of themselves and their time to introduce the game of soccer, a game anyone can play, to tens of thousands of children.

I’ve watched and listened as children have laughed and giggled and shared stories and bonded with fellow players and their parents before, during, and after soccer practices, matches, and camps.

And I’ve watched and listened as children and parents learned to know and love each other through the game of soccer!

Kailyn Purdy Lakewood Soccer Association Hurricanes Spring 2013

“Are you sure you want me to play in the goal?”

I guess there are actually several takeaways here:

Let the children play and the coaches coach!

Before the match say, “Good Luck and I Love You!”

During the match, leave the coaching to the coach because you’re going to be too busy cheering for your child…and everyone else’s. The team!

After the match say, “I Love You and I’m Proud of You!” And then, maybe, depending on the time of day, “Where do you want to go for breakfast or lunch or dinner?” Better yet? “What would you like to do next!?”

Playing soccer is wonderful!

Coaching soccer is an absolutely amazing experience!

An individual who is willing to set aside Self for the sake of their child’s growth, enjoyment, and enrichment is indeed a special kind of person: A Parent.

Coach Z
Ultimate Soccer Training & Fitness

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