It might not seem like it sometimes, but parents can play a critical role in the development of a young player. Sure, you might be paying through the nose for a coach to train your son or daughter in the physical aspects of the game, but there are still lots of things you can do to facilitate their growth - particularly when it comes to the mental side of the game.
In fact, if you look at a lot of successful professional athletes, they attribute a lot of their success to their parents.
In this article, I’ll talk about 5 of those things which I consider to be the most important.
Protect your child’s confidence.
One of the most important factors in being a successful athlete is maintaining an excellent mental attitude. This is especially true when it comes to something like goalkeeping, which requires the resilience to withstand the bad moments and not let them affect performance throughout the rest of the game.
Experience tells us that a large part of a child’s self-confidence stems from their parents. It’s your role to be there to help them develop their own self esteem - Like a bamboo stake supporting a sunflower until it can hold its own weight.
Try to consistently remind them of the good things about their performance. Be aware of how they are reacting to bad situations and try to help them stay positive when it counts. Talk to them. Find out what they’re thinking and help steer them away from negative tendencies.
Believe me when I tell you this will make a huge difference on (and off) the pitch as your child matures and begins to learn how to deal with criticism on their own.
Don’t be a ‘nightmare’ parent.
Parents want the best for their kids, which is great - of course. However, one thing to remember is that this doesn’t mean you need to be overprotective or overbearing - a sunflower won’t grow without space and you’ll likely do more damage than good in the long term. You can (and should) still offer criticism. But just try to make it constructive and offer suggestions on how to improve - also it’s important to time it wisely.
A huge mistake parents make is that they try to talk about the game with their child in the car on the way home. This is generally not a good time be offering your thoughts - especially if they’ve had a rough time. Trust me, your son or daughter will know how they performed and they likely need the time to quietly reflect on the game for themselves.
When you think they’re ready, try to ask questions instead of telling them what they did wrong or what they should next time. I.e. “What did you learn?” instead of “Don’t do this next time.” or “You were terrible at X, Y and Z.”.
Another thing worth mentioning is how you act during a game. There’s nothing more embarrassing to a kid than having a parent shouting at them from the sideline. It also adds so much more pressure when you have those parents who stand eagle-eyed waiting to shout to their kid. Don’t be one of those parents, regardless of intention - it’s perfectly fine to just watch the game and be supportive. Your child will thank you for it.
Video tape their performances for reviewing.
This is a pretty simple one. Having a videotape of the game that you can look back on provides your child a great way to realistically assess how they did. You can help point out the good things they did and help them understand where they could improve.
If you can’t video every game, then at least try to fill out analysis sheets, so it’s possible to see trends and highlight potential for improvement. For example, all goals were scored from set pieces, etc.
Help fuel their passion for the game.
It’s all too easy for kids to get distracted with other things and as a result they can sometimes fall behind with their training, start missing a few sessions or not practicing in their spare time. This is fine, all kids need to be able to have fun and explore their passions.
One thing that you can do as a parent is to help fuel their passion for the game by watching professional games with them. You can discuss between you what the pros are doing to warm up for the game, how they get prepared for an attack and how they position themselves in the goal.
Of course, you can’t force it but it could provide a way to channel your child’s passion in the game.
Understand the equipment they need to succeed.
The main thing to know about here are goalkeeper gloves. Generally, you get what you pay for and cheap gloves lacking important features (such as finger protection) can actually hold a player back and can cost more in the long run because they tend to not be as durable as higher end gloves. Here at Renegade GK, we take all of this into account and provide a glove that has full safety features as well as great durability and excellent grip on the ball. All of these are things that can really make a difference in the heat of the match. You can view our full range of professional grade goalkeeper gloves here.
The bottom line here is that goalkeepers receive plenty of criticism over their careers without having the added pressure from their parents. Your aim is to be as supportive as possible and help feed the flame of passion and self-confidence - this is what will make the real difference.