… even allow a child under the age of 18 to take a paper route. The problem, they conclude, is that “by trying to keep children safe from all risks, obstacles, hurt feelings, and fears, our culture has taken away the opportunities they need to become successful adults. In treating them as fragile — emotionally, socially, and physically — society actually makes them so.”
Alice Atalanta, Ph.D.
Suppose a parent thinks their child can become a soccer prodigy so they have their kid play in kid soccer leagues while in Elementary School.
Now suppose volunteer coaches tell this parent their child is really great at soccer so this parent keeps on investing in soccer training.
Now the kid attends a High School short on talent so he makes the High School soccer team. Now its time to go to College, and in a nationwide competition and with few Colleges sporting soccer teams, this kid can’t secure a soccer scholarship.
So this parent gets on their kid for falling short of the dream.
I participated in volunteer soccer coaching between 2009 and 2010. I was good at it — I never had a losing season and orchestrated what may be the only credible perfect season in that soccer league up until that point in time.
At the end of soccer seasons, I would send a personalized note to each set of parents giving them some insights into their children’s strengths. I found out later some parents found this upsetting.
Why was I providing such insights? So parents could develop over time reasonable estimates of the talent of their children because face it, not every kid has natural skills that can pave the way to a soccer scholarship in College. The earlier a parent can realize their kids’ strengths the better. This after all is essence of feedback from kids’ teachers in Elementary School all the way through High School — understanding of strengths and weaknesses. And let’s not say parents are not thinking about this possibility as early as Elementary School. All parents wanted their kids to have fun as did I. All also, however, were hoping they could see some light at the end of a “soccer scholarship for College” tunnel.
It is not only children that are becoming too fragile, its parents too. Criticism at times can be negative or non-constructive— such criticism never should be encouraged. But when parents become sensitive to constructive feedback, the culture is becoming too sensitive.
If parents become overly sensitive to constructive feedback they will end up with blase non-committal praise which can lead them down the wrong path.
Sample Emails — no editing whatsoever. All emails sent to parents not kids in question
Sample Email 1 with names changed to preserve identities
I do not think that I have ever had a kid as sweet as “Sweetie” on any of my soccer teams. She sees me coming on to the field and she says “Hi coach O” in such a way that makes me feel real important to the team. She has also been really sweet during games or practices. I pray she never loses such sweetness as she gets older. I really am going to miss her.
In terms of soccer skills, Sweetie has what I can term “finishing skills”. She is strong, and she is fast. And when she gets the ball in a scoring situation, she rarely misses. These are skills that make for a good striker. They are also skills that can be helpful for playing the midfield position in soccer when she gets older. Sweetie, Bodie, and Efe (my son) are similar in that they use their speed and strength to create advantages on the soccer field. Bill and Cody on the other hand, tend to create advantages by dribbling. Having kids with these different strengths on the team has of course been a boon for me as coach. It is one of the reasons why the team has done really well at defense and scoring goals this season.
Does Sweetie have any soccer related weakness? Really, I can’t think of any at the moment. But if I do, I will let you know before the end of the season.
I look forward to seeing Sweetie around next season.
Sample Email 2 with names changed to preserve identities
The past two seasons, Dolly has gotten going just as the season was winding down. Each season, she has demonstrated great progress towards the end of the season. In that sense, I wish the season would continue longer.
To follow up on my comments last season, this season and particularly in the last three games, Dolly has demonstrated a knack for passing the ball to her team mates. Not just passing the ball to her team mates, but placing the ball where she believes her team mate needs to be. If you remember, last season, I felt that she was demonstrating the skills of a midfielder. From what I have seen this season, I feel even stronger that she has natural skills that are well suited to playing that position.
Dolly’s soccer weakness: It takes her time to get going. The fact that she missed a couple of games and practices probably contributed to that trend this season. I am sure, however, that this is something she will get over with time.
I look forward to seeing Dolly around next season.
Sample Email 3 with names changed to preserve identities — I really enjoyed being able to write this one because I was rooting for this kid to show me something good on the field
You have no idea how much pleasure it gave me to see Janelle tugging at the jersey of a kid on the opposing team on Saturday, and challenging the kid for the ball. That is a great improvement from the last two games, and I tell you, that was great to watch. It was also great to see her taking the ball the length of the field. I know it would be great to see her score a goal, and hopefully that still happens over the course of the next two games, but the progress she demonstrated on Saturday is something that you should already be proud of. I can tell you, I am.
I believe given the opportunity and the right coaching in the future, Janelle can be really good at soccer. But you’ll have to be patient with her. From what I have seen so far, she is going to be the scrappy midfielder challenging for the ball and setting up goals up front or scoring goals herself.
It has been a pleasure coaching Janelle, and I hope that she continues to enjoy soccer into the future.
Take care and God bless,
Sample Email 4 with names changed to preserve identities — I was a good coach but had to eat humble pie on how good this kid was
It really has been a pleasure coaching Cody this season. It is obvious to me that his Dad or someone has been coaching him up on offense. As a result, whenever he has the ball on offense, it is clear to me that he has a scheme in mind in terms of how he plans to put himself in a scoring situation. Clearly, whoever has been coaching him up on offense has done a great job.
I did not play Cody much on defense. But the last time he played defense, it was really clear that he also has a knack for playing defense. I would encourage you to allow him to be placed in situations where he can develop his defensive skills next season. Why? With defensive skills, he becomes a coach’s dream. A talented kid who can play pure defense, be creative in the midfield by dribbling, and who can also be a good striker.
I know kids want to score goals. And I know parents want their kids to score goals. But soccer is a team sport and not everyone gets to score goals, depending on the positions they play. Each position is, however, vital to the soccer team’s success. Early on, Cody appeared to only care about scoring goals. I was happy, however, that he was willing to play defense two Saturdays back and considered it a valuable contribution to the team. How do I know this? He asked me, “Coach, am I doing a good job?” And I said, “Cody, you are doing a GREAT job”.
Does Cody have any weaknesses? Yes. In terms of his footwork, he tends to push the ball wide when he is dribbling. This of course will get better with time and with coaching.
I look forward to seeing Cody around next season.
Alright, just two more, including this one. Again names changed
I have been really impressed with Bill all season. The reason: he already has a striker’s sense of what he wants to do with the ball in order to put himself in a position to score. Very few kids have this sort of innate sense this early. In addition to this innate sense, he already has good footwork and is able to move the ball between his feet in very small spaces in order to get through the kids on the other team. Really, it was a pleasure watching him pull this off week after week.
Kids with Bill’s sort of innate sense can turn out to be great midfielders and/or strikers. In soccer, midfielders are kind of like the brain of the team. That is, the schemes they set up determine the team’s scoring opportunities. Strikers of course are the players who implement midfielders’ schemes. I see Bill being really good at either position, but moreso as a striker.
Did Bill display any weakness? Well, other than a tendency to not want to be told what to do during the game at times, I can’t think of anything else. As he moves on to a U-7 team next season with 5 players a side, however, paying attention to his coach’s instructions will become increasingly important. I am sure that he will get better in this respect with time.
Again, it’s been a pleasure coaching Bill, and I look forward to seeing him around next season.
Sample E-mail 6 with names changed: If I needed great defense to win a game, I would choose this girl over all the boys I coached
It has been a pleasure coaching Samantha this Fall 2009 season. In all of the three seasons I have coached soccer, I do not think I have had anyone play defense better than Samantha does, and with so much focus. It’s not only that she plays defense well, she already has the instinct for playing defense, which is why I always started her on defense. Apart from being great on defense, Samantha also played offense really well, and has been the best tackler on the team so far.
I am very proud of Samantha, and feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to coach her this Fall. She is without question the Most Valuable Player (Defense) on the Maroon Sea Lions team. Given her talent level, and unless she loses interest later, I would encourage you to continue to give her the opportunity to develop her talent.
Also, I know parents like to see their kids score goals, but given soccer is a team sport there is significant demand for great defensive players, and some of the highest paid professional soccer players in Europe play defense. So, while she should continue to develop her offensive skills, if she continues to show a well developed instinct for playing defense (which could be the ticket to a soccer college scholarship), do not feel she is losing or missing out in any way by not scoring as many goals as kids playing on offense.
I sure hope she’s not on an opposing team when I coach next season.
Take care and God bless,
Helping 5 to 10 kids under 10 years old enjoy soccer to the point of finding it interesting and worthwhile was challenging, but was well worth it.