By Tony Earp

When a new season approaches, we anxiously wonder what is in store for us as practices begins and games are scheduled. All parents want their child to have a successful season, and I think most would define that by a child having fun and learning how to play the game. Although both of those ideas are very broad and “having fun” and “learning” means different things to different people.

Some may feel “having fun” means winning, and “learning” means a child playing in their strongest position and improving those skills. Others may define “having fun” as the time spent with friends and developing strong relationships with other kids, and define “learning” as knowing more about the game at the end of the season than at the start of it. Then, you have everyone else who falls somewhere between both points of that spectrum. Obviously, this leaves room for disappointment and frustration for some as the coach’s approach will most likely not be inline with everyone’s definition of fun and learning. With this understanding, it is very important expectations of “having fun” and “learning” are clearly defined before the start of the season, so even if there is not a mutual agreement, at least a mutual understanding can be established.

What does your child want from their soccer experience?
 Both the parents and the coach should know the answer to this question for the player. This will help both manage the player’s expectations and be able to respond to the player appropriately when issues arise, or better yet, both the coach and parents can see issues coming and address them before they become a problem. With that said, what a player should expect needs to be shaped by the coach knowing what is best for the player from a developmental standpoint and the parents understanding what is best for the child as their parents. Again, there may be disagreement over those areas, but communicating those ideas with all parties and being upfront about it helps both work together.

What do you want?
 As a parent, you are also a “client” of the soccer club and it is important to have expectations of what you expect your child’s soccer experience to be like over the course of the year. Ideally, you would want to know if the club or coach meet those expectations before you commit to be on the team or part of the club, but that is not always possible. Although your expectations need to be realistic to your child’s playing level and age group, it is good to share those expectations with your coach or club director. If you are not sure about what to expect, you should look into what is known as “best practices” for coaching or teaching of players of your child’s age group and playing level. You can also just ask the coach. Sit down and discuss what you should expect throughout the year when it comes to your child’s playing experience.

What does the coach expect?
 All coaches are different and if you get the best coaches in the world in a single room to discuss what should be done to develop players and run a team over a season, there will be plenty of disagreement. Like many things, no one way is absolutely correct or absolutely wrong. Most approaches are a blend of what is know to be the best approach to help players and a coach’s personal philosophy or approach. The key is the purpose behind expectations and what is being done. Is it for short-term or long-term goals, is it based on research or just “that’s how it was done when I played”, or is it coach focuses or player focused. These key distinctions make a big difference in terms of the experience being a positive one for the player. Again, two coaches who have a long-term developmental approach, based on best practices and is player focused will possibly have very different expectations and approaches to the season. Parents and players need to have a very good understanding of what the coach’s expectations will be.

What does the club expect?
 Clubs are as diverse as coaches, players, and parents. All clubs have different goals and missions for their teams in different age groups and levels of competition. It is important to be clear on the club’s expectations in terms of leagues, tournaments, amount of traveling, the amount of training, playing time, and overall approach to games and the player experience. Based on the size of the club, the goals of the club, and the club’s priorities for player experience, what you can expect as a parent or player over the course of the year can be very different. Again, this is not a debate about right or wrong. It is more about what is right for your child, budget, time commitment, and goals for playing soccer at your child’s age group and skill level.

The hardest thing to do is align expectations between people who have different expectations. Although, an open discussion about expectations can give both parties a good base to align their individual expectations with each other. When expectations go unestablished, it leaves a lot of room for assumptions which usually leads to a season full of issues and misunderstandings. Although we all might not agree, it is much easier to have a mutual respect for one another’s opinions and actions when expectations are clearly outlines from the start of the season.

By knowing where everyone stands, it is much easier to find common ground. Most importantly, by this type of collaborative approach, it is more likely the child playing the game will have a positive experience through the season which you expected.

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at

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