May 7, 2019
This post is a guest contribution, specially written for Switching the Field by Evie Cerys
In the world of youth soccer, there are lots of potential opportunities for a child’s personal growth. The best coaches, after all, are leaders who not only train kids to be better players, but also to be future leaders on and off the field as well. Playing sports can give children a certain independence and bring out the best in them. In a previous post, it was discussed that, “Whenever I’ve seen coaches and parents trust their players to do the right thing – even if the adults aren’t fully confident that the players are ready for the challenge – I’ve seen that players will often surprise us in the right way.” This is why it is important to develop and encourage leadership skills on the pitch.
The intensity and team-oriented nature of soccer makes it the perfect place for creating young leaders. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a child has to be the team captain, as leadership qualities can present themselves in various ways. For example, a child who learns a new skill could then take the initiative to help their teammates learn it too. US Youth Soccer details how all children can be leaders through displaying the Three C’s of captaincy: being caring, courageous, and consistent. It doesn’t matter what position they play, when these traits are put into action it is noticed by the rest of the team and immediately acts as a positive influence.
Coaches also need to realize that there are a host of other traits that are essential to being a leader. One of them calls for mental strength. This can be the most difficult to watch out for as Master Soccer Mind suggests that when selecting a team captain, the chosen player should have the mental fortitude to stay cool and calculated during the game’s most intense moments. Considering that many youth soccer players aren’t even in their teens, the prospect of giving them such responsibilities early on can be scary. However entrusting this responsibility to one or two team members is a great method to foster leadership skills on the field.
Instilling such valuable lessons in children through sports will help them in other areas of life as they get older. Journalist Judy Mandell discussed how even below average players can reap the benefits of playing sports at a young age, as sports impart the significance of hard work, accountability, and teamwork early on and will likely make them better at business in the future. Instilling these values early on can make a huge difference in their future career advancement, especially as leadership roles will always be needed and in demand. In fact, leadership roles in society are changing, with Maryville University detailing how organizational leadership is a very sought after skill as it “places an emphasis on critical thinking, change management, and understanding the collaborative mindset.” This shows why it is vital for young children to learn good leadership skills early, through sports like soccer, as it will help prepare them for the future.
What not to do, of course, is to stand over a child’s shoulders and be ready to swoop in anytime they encounter a problem. As we mentioned above, allowing children to make mistakes on their own will expedite the process of learning how to rely on themselves. Always rushing to alleviate them of any conflict or discomfort sends the message that they do not need leadership skills to succeed. Although the intentions behind such actions may be good, it can lead to bad habits early on.