Player Development: Building Confidence-Parents Take Note

Player Development: Building Confidence-Parents Take Note

Building Confidence Starts With Belief

Believing in your child allows them to breathe easier

I don’t understand son. I’m keeping my blood pressure down, I avoid conflict with your coach most of the time, I try not to talk about other kids in front of the other parents, I keep communication lines open to you, drive you to and from practice and even offer you advice on who to pass to and who not to pass to in order to make you look better. I avoid all conflict with your mother, we pay for expensive cleats and hotels at tournaments, and you thrive in this environment……SO WHY IN GODS NAME DID YOU PASS TO JIMMY SO HE COULD SCORE WHEN YOU COULD HAVE BOOTED THE BALL????

The above paragraph is taken from a presentation I did about team chemistry. I started with this because I wanted to stress the importance of the role parents have in guiding and mentoring their children. This of course makes fun of the “Crazy Soccer Parent” that we’ve all seen or heard on our own teams or on the sidelines of games, but it also serves to remind us how essential it is for our kids to have parents who truly care and support their children, and want nothing more than for them to grow and develop both on and off the field.

The above statement would be detrimental for any child to hear –They would have likely spent time during the week at their training sessions practicing and preparing for the game, and their coach will have no doubt instructed his/her players as to their expectations for game day. Now they’ll not only be confused, they’ll be considerably conflicted. Do they listen to their parent or the coach the next time? I used the subtitle about breathing easier because Chris Panayiotou, our Developmental Director shared an article with me three years ago that he found online. The title of the piece was “How to make your players psychologically strong” – Whilst I found the entire article interesting, there was something about one area in particular that stood out for me, and I’ve included it below.

Praise, Praise, Praise

Praise is like oxygen to a child who is learning new skills. Without it, they will struggle and probably fail. But well-timed and meaningful praise will lift their spirits, boost their self-esteem and give them the confidence to try and learn even more difficult and challenging skills. (

It is unrealistic of me, or anyone else for that matter to think that kids won’t make mistakes when they’re learning new things. So, in order to keep them focused on the positive I don’t allow my players to say “Sorry” when they make a mistake. I ask them to say “I’ll do better next time” or “Next time will be better.” The importance of them acknowledging a mistake was made is great, but I want them to spend less time worrying about the mistake so they’ll realize the significance of understanding how to prevent the same thing from happening again. I guess you could say that the praise in this case is internal, as they no longer stress about mistakes and focus instead on their development. By setting up the conditions to create an environment conducive for learning, where nobody is afraid to fail for fear of repercussion from a teammate or coach, the external praise surrounds them in the form of their successes, their teammates and coaches. I like to call it my “Go For It” atmosphere.

It’s no secret that there’s a relationship between confidence and performance. Players with high self-esteem and self-confidence are more persistent, put more effort into games and training, and outplay and outperform those with less confidence.

Below, I’ve outlined just a few of the areas I spend considerable time as a coach working on with players to help them build confidence and self-esteem. I also believe that team chemistry plays a large part in helping our children grow and mature into confident young men and women.

  • Create an environment conducive for learning from day one
  • Demand a “Go For It” atmosphere during training and provide positive feedback
  • Be enthusiastic and positive, and make a point to listen to the players
  • Enable the players to solve many of their own problems whenever possible
  • Allow the players games and practices where they devise their own strategies and playing style

Some ways parents can contribute to making soccer fun for children is through various forms of communication.

  • Verbal: What we say and how it’s said could have a profound impact on a child. Try and be mindful of what you say, and how you say it.
  • Visual: Negative body language suggests disappointment and hurts a child, whereas positive body language can elevate a child’s belief
  • Physical: A high five or a big smile work better than most hollow words.

Here are some examples that will help you better understand how important communication skills are. 

I asked 12 players if one or both of their parents had ever lectured them on what they did wrong immediately after a game. The response was yes from all 12 of them. Now, I don’t want anyone calling me or emailing me to inform me that they also gave them some positive feedback afterwards. It’s TOO LATE. Once your child hears the negatives, they switch off and don’t listen to anything else.

I then asked the same 12 players if one or both of their parents had ever told them to do things differently than their coach. Eleven of them said yes. That is staggering to me, because based on those numbers it means that a little over 2,700 children in our club across all our programs are being told by their parents not to listen to their coach. Or at least have been told at some point to do things differently than what their coach asked them to do.

After hearing this, I expanded on the question and asked them how they felt when they’re being told to do things differently than what their coach told them. Here are just a few responses.

  • Confused as I don’t know who to listen to, even though I know my coach is right
  • Annoyed, they don’t know soccer as well as the coach does
  • Conflicted because I don’t want to upset my parents or my coach
  • Angry because I want to get better and my coach is making me better
  • My coach doesn’t tell me not to listen to my parents, he tells me I should listen to them (but not about soccer). Why can’t my parents be like the coach?

If you’re a parent who is guilty of this, I hope that this will make you think twice before telling your child to ignore what their coach is teaching them. Imagine the result of telling your daughter not to listen to her Math teacher, or her English teacher. Below is a link to a small piece written by Dan Abrahams on 3 Steps to Building Confidence.