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In a soccer game, everybody wants to leave the field as a winner – Coaches, players and even parents. But quite often the parent’s expectations for their offspring will be exorbitant. Susanne Amar, founder of the blog “Ins Netz gegangen” [“Gone Into the Net”] tells you what she has learned about expectations in soccer in more than a decade on the sidelines.

The European Championship 2016 brought to light again: Expectations in all corners.

The players’ own expectations, like that of Thomas Müller, who was not successful in scoring an EC goal: “I am not personally satisfied either […].”

Expectations of colleagues, which can be quite critical as in the case of Jérôme Boateng after Germany’s 0:0 game against Poland: ” We didn’t win a single One-on-One in the front. We can be happy that we played 0:0 […].”

Or those of coach Joachim Löw for his team before the game versus Northern Ireland: “We want to win against Northern Ireland, […] and we will be group winners. I don’t know any other way.”

And naturally, those of the fans for “the team”…

By the way, Iceland really “took the cake” at the EURO 2016 and exceeded all imaginable expectations.

The same hopes and wishes are also found on a small scale in every youth team. Recently I was able to observe that at one of my son’s last season games on one of the other fields…

An F-Youth level, I estimate the boys and the one girl to be about nine or ten years old, in much too large jerseys. They all run after the ball; the coaches follow them on the sidelines for almost every action. They attempt to coach what there is to coach in order to move the “scampering pack of hounds” to make the right plays. What attracts my full attention, more so than the game, are the countless parents – fathers in the majority – who wildly call to their children. Oh, what am I saying, scream at…

“Kevin, shoot at the goal. Do it already… No, not that, the other. Oh, heck…Paul, do something already… Don’t let the ball get taken away… now run, will you…”

There’s no trace of the rules of the FairPlayLeague.

Emotions belong to Soccer

But how far do they go? And what good are all the often harsh remarks?

There’s hardly any sport discipline in which there are so many parents who see themselves as “specialists” like in soccer. Mostly the fathers and rare mothers – a friend tells me of a mother who burst into tears because her son is no longer playing in the position she favors; the player himself has no problem with it – believe themselves more capable than any coach. Naturally, that also includes knowing what their child can do, what he needs, how to encourage him and which position is the best.

Even if the DFB provides clear guidelines for the particular youth level, these are rarely used. Because thanks to the competition, already begun early on, all participants have only one goal – winning! And winning regardless of the level of performance, as a youth coach reports to me.

Both journalists Ralf Lorenzen and Jörg Marwedel got to the heart of the DFB goal on page 51 of their book, “The Future of Soccer”, published by KJM Buchverlag:

"Children's Soccer should not be a copy of adult Soccer"

That would be great… What drives us parents to verbally push our children during the game? After a match to talk about missed chances after a certain age? Or to give advice on how it can be done better? Is it just desire to accompany our son/our daughter in their sport? Or is there more behind it? The ambition to have success through our children? Or does one or another of us see the last chance for self-realization here, because in one’s own youth one didn’t have success in sports?

During the search for an answer it helps to put ourselves in the position of our children and to consider what soccer means for them. The following questions can be useful in doing so:

What is the reason that my child plays soccer?

What does the sport give him/her?

What is the fun for my offspring in playing soccer?

Thereafter one should ask oneself – privately – what it is that I get out of the ball sports of my child; why is it important to me that he play soccer, and whether I’m occupied with visions of the future – suspecting I have the next Gareth Bale at home – or whether I can enjoy the here and now. What will happen if my child does not become the soccer player that I see in him? What does that mean for me?

Whichever way the answers go: they can give a different, perhaps a new, view of the sport and can possibly lead to a little more serenity. Because I believe the drive for success leads to it always becoming more “our” sport instead of the sport of our children.

In the past I haven’t always succeeded in finding the right balance; I participate more than is good for our son. That quickly leads to stress, as is the case with imbalances; there are more clashes, nerves sooner lie bare. For me it’s the signal to hold myself back more and let him do.

Therefore, my advice:

"Support ist important, but there should be the right "mixture"."

Everyone has expectations and they’re part of life, but please, dosed well, and such that they don’t overtax the other and oneself. That includes valuing the other. Something which I hold as imperative for social cohesion, but unfortunately often neglected. We don’t need to be experts to support our children well in soccer. I believe it helps them very much in (soccer)life already if we encourage and value them in what they do.

Not all youth players can become a Messi, just as little as we all have the stuff to be federal president, or have the intelligence of Einstein. Therefore, no matter whether WC, EC, national league, various other leagues, and youth leagues, youth training centers, large or small soccer clubs: they will continue to accompany us – the hopes, expectations, and wishes… At the latest in the next important match.

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This article was written by Susanne Amar, founder of the blog, “Ins Netz gegangen” [“Gone Into the Net”]. Find more info on her website (in German) or on our planet.training Blog.

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