In this post we review US Youth Soccer’s article entitled, “Soccer Teaches Many Lessons On and Off the Field.” My overall critique is that US Youth Soccer’s life lesson checklist needs some backbone. This is why?
A Hopeful List of Life Lessons Taught By Soccer
The purpose of my critique is to tell US Youth Soccer that it must at least sound more confident when it communicates the benefits of playing soccer. How they articulated these benefits in this article is an embarrassment.
More importantly, US Youth Soccer missed a real opportunity to establish itself as a legitimate leader in this beautiful sport by asserting its expectations for the adults that participate in the sport of soccer. Personally, I would have spelled out for the adults the behaviors they must model and teach in order for soccer to successfully teach these life lessons.
What’s Wrong With This Article?
This article does neither of the things suggested above. It sets no expectation and it lacks confidence in what soccer can do for our youth. Moreover, the description of the Life Lessons it lists fails to distinguish what is uniquely special about soccer that enables teaching them.
Worst of all, it absolves the adults which participate in youth soccer of any responsibility or accountability. Come on US Youth Soccer. Soccer doesn’t teach life lessons. Adults do!
What Do You Mean “We Hope?”
The article provides a checklist of eight life lessons that soccer can teach its youth players. It introduces this list to the reader as follows. “Here’s a checklist for life lessons we hope your athlete has learned or will learn through their youth sports experience.”
This is what I envision when I think of paid professionals and leaders operating off of hope. Leaders are expected to do more than hope. Leaders lead by example.
“We hope??? We hope???” What kind of a leader in any field, industry, sport, nation, or business sells the benefits and advantages of their product with a statement of hope. How would you react if your child’s doctor said this right before beginning surgery? “I hope I can save your child’s life? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.” Not too reassuring is it?
What Does Hope Look Like In Soccer?
In youth soccer, to hope is to throw a ball and eleven untrained and unfamiliar individuals onto a soccer field to play against a well-trained, highly disciplined elite soccer club respected for its sportsmanship and winning streak, and expect that your team doesn’t get clobbered so bad.
There Is No Reward for Hopeful Soccer Leadership
The first item in the Life Lesson Checklist is Practice Makes…Better: It’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting better and improving. One of the life lessons we hope our children learn through sports is that their effort will be rewarded.
I know what this looks like from personal experience. Last year my 12-year old played on her school’s soccer team. They had three practices all season. They were dominated, sometimes creamed to the point of disillusion, in nearly every game. In the one game the team held its ground the coach’s end of game pep talk began with, “Well, that’s the best loss we’ve had this year. I’m really proud of you.” What??? This is a coach who operated from a place of hope. Do you think these girls felt rewarded?
US Youth Soccer, don’t hope. Lead. Set a standard. Establish an expectation. Make it a requirement for public school and grass root soccer coaches to conduct thoughtful and frequent practices prior to and during the season, and develop their players. And then, enforce the standard.
What Is The Life Lesson When We Hope Both Teams Play Fairly?
Parents, coaches, players, how many of you have experienced near uncontrollable rage when you or your player/child was the kid in the green shirt? How many of you recall wondering why the referee or the opposing coach, did nothing to enlighten the kid in the red shirt about playing with dignity?
Another item on the Life Lesson Checklist is Win and Lose with Dignity: It’s called “Honoring the Game” in sports. And we hope our young athletes learn to both win and lose while respecting themselves, their teammates, their opponents and the officials and organization that help make their sport experience possible.”
There’s that word hope again. This is what I hope. I hope US Youth Soccer realizes there are many wrong life lessons being taught by the adults who participate in it, either deliberately or through their inaction. Both are equally as guilty.
US Youth Soccer, demand that adults who participate in the game of soccer teach the right life lessons. Lead by example. Model, enforce, and support the behavior. If not, we’ll have more of what you see in this image.
There is no hope for soccer if we hope our youth learn life lessons through osmosis. Hope is a word used by those unprepared or out of their league. This article was written by someone who’s in the wrong league altogether.
The argument that soccer teaches life lessons is correct, but advocates of soccer must be able to make an argument that highlights the specific life lessons that can only be taught within the game of soccer alone.
Examples of Life Lessons That Can Only Be Taught By the Soccer Community
Stay tuned for our next article, where we share with you the life lessons that can only be taught by the soccer community.
Select any of the clips below watch some of our clients that are soccer coaches talk about the life lessons they teach through soccer.