Youth Soccer, Sugar Coating and the Self-Esteem

So many, loving, but misguided soccer parents have fed many souls to the status quo. Over protective and too demanding are two great ways to destroy your child’s self esteem.

Courtesy of some psychology literature that was written in the late 70’s.

After blowing some old dust from this little gem, I continued to read and couldn’t help relate some of these behaviours to youth soccer.

Lets begin.

Self-esteem is often seen as something that players have or don’t have. Where having self-esteem is a great thing and leads to good things, while lacking it leads to bad things or failures.

What do you think?

Personally, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This belief, myth or hypothesis comes from a very limited view of how self-esteem works and how self-esteem is developed.

Self-esteem is not something we give to players by telling them how good they are.

“You’re great at shooting”

“You’re the best player in your age group”

“My son is the best player in the team.”

The belief that self-esteem can be passed on to young players is the reason WHY WE LIE TO OUR CHILDREN.

We exaggerate positives or good behaviour and sugar coat all the negatives whilst lying about inadequate performances or effort. Sound familiar?

The parents worst fear (and to some extent coaches) is that negative feedback or criticism will destroy a player’s self-esteem. It’s as though we’ve bought into some secret society or bullshit theory in which players require constant success to feel good about themselves.

God behold if something went wrong or your child didn’t get a jersey. Constant attempts to boost players EGO’s instead of boosting their efforts is a sure recipe for disaster and the status quo proves it.

Why hide their deficiencies?

Why hide their weaknesses?

How about we help them overcome their weaknesses and try to reinforce EFFORT and HARD WORK to overcome these obstacles instead of teaching them to hide through the bullshit feedback.

What message do we give our players/children when we give them sugar coated feedback and praise?

The message is clear if you ask me!

We tell them that having ability and winning is the most important thing and anything short of this needs to be hidden and even buried to protect the self-esteem.

Before I continue let me add this, praise, encouragement and sugar coated feedback “WORKS” in most cases. Telling your child/players they’re the best sure makes them feel good and it definitely adds a few inches to their self-esteem.

But at what cost?

Sugar coating or lying leads to a type of self-esteem that I despise, the type we call ENTITLEMENT, sigh!

There is nothing more destructive than easy drills and exaggerated praise for minor effort. What benefit, if any, does this create?

It creates players that will quit the game in despair because they feel entitled to all that soccer has to offer without the blood, sweat and tears.

When will these players learn about the elbow grease or the significance of clenched teeth?

An entitled self-esteem is a recipe for anger, disappointment, failure and inevitably self-doubt.

What happens to these players after all the sugar coating and the lies dry up? What happens to these players when there is no one there to praise them? What happens when soccer throws a spanner into the works? Do these entitled; artificially sweetened players have the equipment, balls and thick skin to proceed?

God help us if they get injured, rejected or benched.

After years of lies and exaggerated praise how do these players respond to adversity? How can they possibly know what to do when they have never confronted their weaknesses?

You’d think most parents would recognise that anything worthwhile would require and involve failed attempts, heartache and tears.

What’s wrong with making mistakes, tackling your weaknesses or even losing?

How about instructing from the heart and with a different framework. A framework where EFFORT and challenges are expected and ENJOYED, while setbacks, weaknesses and losses are seen as informative and challenging.

Your child can handle the truth, the question is, CAN YOU?

“May the winds of destiny blow you to the stars.”

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  1. what a great post! I manage my 2 sons soccer (you can tell where I’m from) teams and I hear a lot of parents complaining about coaches being too hard on kids when in reality they are trying to get the best out of the youngsters. I know there is a fine line between constructive criticism and abuse, but in my experience parents will often confuse the two.

    with your permission, I would like to re-blog this post.


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