In this article – part of our series on 7v7 for the U9/U10 age groups – we’ll discuss communication, expectations, and a definition for success in the 7v7 format.
As coaches, we interact with the players for a relatively short time – 2 to 3 training sessions and 1 to 2 games on the weekend. Parents form a central part of their children’s lives – providing basic needs (food, shelter, and so on) and logistics (transportation, scheduling). More importantly, the environment created by parents influences the values and behaviors of their children. It is vital that we view parents as valued partners.
These are the types of questions that many parents will ask:
- What are your values?
- What are the expectations for my child?
- What skills will my child learn?
A pre-season parent meeting can be a valuable mechanism for answering these (and other) questions in a group setting. Here are slides from the 205 curriculum that we have used:
KPOs (key performance objectives) and KPIs (key performance indicators) should be an element of conversations with parents – for the team and for the individual players. A club curriculum should define age group KPOs and KPIs. Every child is on their own trajectory in the dimensions of development – technical, tactical, physical, and psychosocial (TTPP).
Transparent, consistent, and empathetic communication with parents on our view of their child – strengths and areas of improvement – and their individual KPOs and KPIs can help smooth over the bumps when they happen. Parents can advocate our coaching and methods in their interactions with their child outside our training sessions.
It is important to remember that for most parents, their opportunity to observe their children occurs in games, not at training sessions. Communication is an essential bridge between what we are working on in practices and what the parents see in games. Many coaches will often send out communications (group chat, emails) prior to weekends describing the key points developed during that week’s training sessions and the KPOs for upcoming games.
A short note on the use of electronic communication to problem solve – it’s a bad idea. In any season, there will be situations where there is a disconnect between expectations and behaviors – the players, the parents, or the coach. Using email or text messages to resolve conflict can result in more friction due to misinterpretations in tone or intent. Be willing to set up an in-person meeting to resolve these situations. When appropriate and possible, include the child. The desired outcome is for the player to take ownership of their situation.
A definition of success should be an element of a pre-season meeting and reinforced throughout the year. In professional senior teams and college teams, the definition of success revolves around wins and losses. Some adults will conflate what they see as success at high-level teams with their child’s U9/U10 team – winning as a top priority and not winning as a failure. We can also find parents who link specific outcomes for their child (goals) with rewards. Our view at 205 is that success in these age groups is based on two factors – the growth of the individual players (KPOs and the TTPP axis) and their engagement with the game. Important questions to answer for each player – why do they like soccer, and do they want to play next year.
There is a role for winning in player development and retention. Competence is often cited in research as a component of motivation. Being on an uncompetitive team can drive away players from the sport. However, sacrificing player development to compete can have adverse outcomes. By contrast, being on a superior team with no competition can inhibit growth and give players and parents a false sense of accomplishment. The solution is to – when possible – identify a playing environment that provides challenges but also opportunities for success. If being in a balanced playing league is not an option – often the case in recreational leagues or areas with limited numbers of teams – the club and coach must promote KPOs/KPIs outside of game results – for example, building psychosocial attributes, individual skills, taking training session ideas into games, and so on.
Having laid the groundwork in our previous articles in this series, we will dig into the 7v7 system of play in our upcoming articles.