A couple of months ago, I was in a Zoom meeting with the Director of one of the best football/soccer academies in Europe, and he said, “From my point of view, the biggest hurdle for the players’ career is their parents”.
It was a rather harsh statement, but I do see his point. For instance, I’ve seen many young players unsuccessful over the years in their attempts to become Professional Players. Unfortunately, most of the times, their parents’ decisions played a key role in the outcome.
These are the 7 common mistakes that will kill your kid’s football/soccer career:
1: Playing the Coaches Role
Giving your kid instructions from the sideline while playing the game is not a clever idea.
I bet that as a parent, you do not sit in their classrooms at school and shout out instructions. Indeed, you rely on your kid’s education from an expert (the teacher), true? Likewise, the coach is the only one that should shout out instructions. The parents can be supportive by giving motivational comments like well done, keep going, excellent job, etc. However, receiving different information places an enormous amount of pressure on the kids and stops them from having fun.
2: Ignoring the kid’s actual wishes and feelings
Often, to avoid disappointing their parents, kids will be doing something that their parents like more than they do. Therefore, it is essential to ask the kid what they love to do no matter what it is and support them through their journey.
The key to any success in personal and professional life is HUNGER. To prevent failure and frustration and to save time and money, we must be sure that the player has an inner passion for football throughout their journey.
3: Promoting Overtraining
Many kids these days train at their Club’s, private academies, school teams, futsal, or indoor teams, have personal trainers, go on tours, tournaments, or are selected into state teams by their local federations. Subsequently, doing that is less beneficial because there is a greater risk of injury or burn out, which may lead to losing interest in the game.
It creates confusion. Many different coaches give their advice (based on their own approach/knowledge) which can confuse kids and their parents. Likewise, kids go to one school, so they follow one Educational System, not 3 or 4 different ones.
It generates poor time & energy management. Nowadays, young players have hectic schedules and spend much of their time travelling to the grounds. Therefore, they do not have time to practice their individual skills. As a matter of fact, most of those kids invest more hours than most of the Professional Players. However, it doesn’t necessarily make a difference in their skills development.
In conclusion, it would be far better to do one or two things than try to do everything. Otherwise, the player will be susceptible to injury for lack of time for recovery. Remember, quality is better than quantity. This way, the kids have a far better-balanced life and less stress for parents trying to get them everywhere.
4: Misleading his/her Career Paths
Sometimes parents do not understand the importance of the timing of their child’s soccer career. Indeed, too often, they are responsible for making wrong decisions by rushing without considering the expert’s advice, which can ruin their child’s future. Like, send them overseas to trial with Clubs or International Academies before acquiring the required skill level.
Players must be ready to showcase their highest capabilities when the opportunity arises. Otherwise, it can cause a lot of damage to the child’s confidence because to go overseas is not enough to be good, but you must be excellent to play at this level.
It would be beneficial to consult with an expert (with no vested interests) to give you sound advice before making these moves, as it can be costly and non-productive for your whole family.
5: Underestimating a mentor’s value
Most times, parents must make many decisions for their kids, which can be tricky. Having a mentor (ex-professional player, professional coach, or agent) specialised in soccer/football is especially important as they have been down the road that their child wants to take. A mentor has a broader perspective of the situation moving forward. Therefore, the mentor will help parents create the player’s career plan, critical for success.
Always pick someone you trust and give them the time and space to get the required results to play at the highest level, whatever that may be for your child.
6: Base the kid’ skills development on perception
Many times, I hear parents telling me how great their kids are and most famously always say,” I’m not biased, but my kid is………….” I understand this, and they may be great at some skills, but how do they determine if they stand out from the average?
You see, they have nothing tangible in their hands like a school report, so you can see exactly how good they are and at what level they are. An example of this is a parent stating that their child can kick the ball with both feet. Fortunately, anyone can do that, but can they kick with the same power, using various techniques and be consistent over different distances? The answer for the majority is no. If they can do it with one foot, they certainly cannot do it with their opposite foot most times. Even professional players are not fluent on their opposite foot.
It’s crucial to measure these skills tangibly and then correct the skill to do better in game situations. Likewise, in school, you receive your kid’s grade, which shows precisely what they can or cannot do. Therefore, you have enough information to evaluate and monitor the player’s development. Without it, you are only guessing and will fail down the track.
7: Relying on raw talent
We see many players who have a lot of natural talent when it comes to soccer. Some kids are faster, physically, or mentally stronger, skilful, agile, courageous, or taller, but no matter what skill you have, you cannot rely on it solely. It will only get you so far, and because it is easier for you when you are playing against weaker opposition, it does not mean that you will be the best in the future. The more we focus on our strengths and weaknesses, the better we become. We all grow and mature at different rates, so just because we are not fast now does not mean we cannot improve our speed. If you rely on whatever talent you already have, one day, someone who was not even close to you cannot only become as good as you were but be ten times better in the future.
I know, making decisions for your children can be daunting at times, but when you have the correct information, are honest and realistic, you can make much better decisions for your child’s future.
At the end of the day, I am sure that the most important thing for you as a parent is your kid’s happiness. Indeed, your priority is to support them on anything that will fulfil her/him for the rest of their lives, no matter which career path they choose to take. Am I right?
By CON BOUTSIANIS