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The Delight of Coaching Your Child

AYSO Volunteers Discover The Magic Of Soccer Through Their Child’s Eyes
By Mike Woitalla

It's one of the greatest delights of parenthood. I don't recall it mentioned in any of the guide books while preparing for fatherhood or that it came up in the words of encouragement from friends or family. It's the magic of seeing the world through your child's eyes.

Spend a little time with a youngster, and you're fielding questions about the sky, the moon and the stars that you may not have thought about for years. Watch the eyes of children when they play with a dog, see a fire truck, or marvel at the way soap bubbles soar and pop.

Put together a train set, build Lego cities, goof around with dolls and stuffed animals. At some point it will hit. You feel like a child again. You're rediscovering joy and magnificence where you long ago forgot they existed.

And you get to play ball! If you're lucky, you might coach your child's soccer team.

What if I don’t have a soccer background?

Whether you have a soccer background or not, the surest way to enjoy yourself and create a fun environment that benefits the soccer development of the kids is to approach it the way you joined your child drawing with crayons or building with blocks.

See the game through your child's eyes.

"When you realize that you're going out there to enjoy, not to evaluate, it's much better," says John Ouellette, AYSO Technical Director and National Coach. "We're talking about kids playing a game. It's like going to the park, watching children play, and savoring every moment."

What’s Coaching all about?

AYSO has 82,000 coaches in its ranks. Most of them coach teams that include their own children. Ouellette says that coaches often put too much pressure on themselves by misinterpreting the role they're supposed to play.

"It's about managing children," says Ouellette. "It doesn't make any difference if you have a full understanding of the sport if you know what you're trying to get out of your sport for your child."

Fun, exercise and the chance to play soccer is what it's all about.

Soccer, perhaps more than any other sport, requires little teaching at the early ages. This is a notion substantiated by the fact that the world's greatest players spent most of their early years in the sport in a free-play environment.

What’s a Coach’s role?

In fact, the role of the coach in the first stages is simply to give children the opportunity to discover the game's joys.

"There's no real schematic on how to develop a great player, but we know if you give a kid a love and passion for the game, who knows, they may become the next Rick Davis," says Ouellette, citing the former AYSO National Executive Director who played for the New York Cosmos and captained the U.S. National Team.

"Our philosophy for AYSO through U-10 is just let them play," says Ouellette. "They get to U-12 and we'll do some technical cleansing, and then teach them to read the game."

In other words, you may be called "coach," but what you're really doing is very similar to taking your child and his or her friends to the playground. You're supervising playtime while allowing the children to explore the fun on their own terms.

"It's OK to sit on a bench and watch them play 3v3, 4v4 or 5v5," says Ouellette. "They don't need a whole lot of skill or ability to do that."
Once coaches comprehend the expectations, they find all aspects of the role less daunting, including the dynamics of coaching one's own child.

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attn: Regional Commissioner, PO Box 311
Cedar City, Utah 84721

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