If you’re new to youth soccer, it’s important to recognize that misconduct, offside positions and tantrums can all be part of the game. And that’s just the parents! For rookie sports supporters: we’ve developed drills that’ll whip you into shape faster than you can slap a soccer-playing stick-family on your minivan.
The only thing more stressful than a tied game is not making it to the game in the first place. Be sure your hands-free device is charged and loaded with GPS coordinates before heading out, and give yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed. Bonus points: Looking calm and collected will send a message of confidence—even if the only thing up your sleeve is a stray Goldfish cracker.
Cleats may be optional for your pint-sized player, but they’re a smarter bet than sneakers. When the ground is slick from rain, the extra traction will help prevent nasty slips—and spare you a few grey hairs in the process. You should also invest in decent shin guards, as kids’ soccer sees more wayward kicks than a Coachella mosh pit.
In Alberta, it’s possible to experience all four seasons in a span of a single game. A good offense is your best defense, and it’s achieved by knowing what to pack. Essentials include: outdoor blanket, umbrella, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, jackets, hats, spray bottles and/or handheld fans. You’ll also want to pack snacks (oranges are ideal), chairs, a first-aid kit, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, drinking water, snacks, cold packs, wet wipes, gloves, toys for siblings, and even more snacks (that Goldfish cracker stuck to your sleeve doesn’t count).
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Talking to other soccer parents will make games more fun, enable carpooling opportunities, and help build new friendships. Type A personalities might also like apps such as TeamSnap, or group pages on Facebook, which can help you track games, learn the team roster and connect with coaches. Of course, not everyone will be your soccer-parent soulmate, which is why this drill comes with an injury warning: Be sure your muscles are warmed up before you sprint away from Tiffani and her talk of the gifted program, allergens and the latest article on Goop.
At some point, you’ll likely feel at least one of the following: That [A.] your child would be David Beckham were it not for the coach, or [B.] your child’s team would be winning were it not for the refs. This is when deep breathing comes in handy, and remembering that good sportsmanship begins by setting an example. Most coaches and referees at this level are parent volunteers who want to keep things fun and drama-free. Also, your baby Beckham? He’s currently got a pylon on his head and is pretending to be Zuma from Paw Patrol. So, exercise perspective.
Coaches are there to coach, and parents need to let them do that. But giving coaches autonomy doesn’t mean dodging parental duties. If your little angel is working on a one-way ticket to Hades, it’s your job to step in. Just be respectful of when and how you do so; charging the field like Mel Gibson in Braveheart is never an option.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Finally, show up for practice, which is where all the meaningful work is done. It’s also cute as heck to watch. Just don’t get cornered by Tiffani, who we hear is hosting an Epicure party and is dying for you to come.