As a coach or parent, you know a lot of work goes into teaching players the skills they need to score goals. But what about the skills they can use off the field? Playing sports is an opportunity for kids to learn life lessons that can help them for the rest of their lives. Read on to make sure you’re emphasizing some of the most important life skills when your players are on the field.
Exercising, making friends, improving skills—soccer provides the perfect recipe for building confidence. Converting a weakness into a strength is a big part of building morale. Instill confidence in your players by creating an atmosphere of respect on and off the field, offering constructive criticism, being approachable, and giving sincere praise. Increased tenacity can help them play better, work harder, and persevere through hard things.
What’s one thing every athlete knows? They know how it feels to win and lose. Help your players learn to swallow their pride. Show them how to win with gratitude and lose with grace—especially in practice; habits like these are built before the game whistle blows. Also, try incorporating team building opportunities into practice to teach humility. When players help each other individually, the entire team benefits.
Whether a player is trying to figure out how to make their way around a determined defender or improve their dribbling, problem solving is a constant part of soccer. Invite your players to talk about problems they encounter on the field and brainstorm ways to solve them. Exemplify problem solving skills as you interact with them; this skill can translate into every other area of their lives. For example, Joe, Briganti, founder of SockIt, recognized his daughters and their teammates had trouble remembering to apply correct techniques to their kicking. When he couldn’t find anything in stores that could help, he designed a device called the SockIt, a light-up device that helps young players learn how to kick accurately. He used it as a way to show his daughters that they could find a solution to their problem. Understanding this life skill will help empower your players and show them they have the ability to grow and change.
Making mistakes is part of the process of developing skills, and results come by learning from these mistakes and continuing forward with a strong work ethic. Some days your child might come home from practice feeling discouraged that they missed a goal or still haven’t perfected their defensive footwork. Recognize that these conversations are opportunities to show them that if they keep working at it, they can find success. Mistakes and weaknesses are opportunities for growth.
This is a big one for team building. If you have players that aren’t aware of their position on the field in relation to other players, don’t understand how their negativity impacts the team or fail to consider how their actions affect other players, then it might be time to teach self-awareness. Soccer is a competitive sport, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of being aware of the feelings of others or adopting a humble mindset. This applies to the workplace, school, home, and anywhere else in life.
When you love something, you commit to it. When a soccer player loves the sport, he or she will spend time studying it, playing it, and watching it. Remind your players what it means to be committed. Thank them when they show up on time, help their teammates, give 110 percent in practice, and eat right. They’ll soon learn to do the same with other commitments in their lives.
Every day presents new ways to learn and teach life skills. You’re helping mold who these kids will be as teenagers, adults, community members, and parents. There is no better way to show them how to be the best they can be than by applying these principles while they’re on the field.