Love of Sports Key To Your Child's Athletic Success

Adults Need to Foster Not Stifle Love of Game

Performance Anxiety Is The Culprit

No adult involved in American youth soccer scene deliberately sets out to destroy the love of the game for the players. Rather, they often get caught up in the anxiety of the moment and do not have the skills to handle the pressure and consequently act out or speak inappropriately. When referees, coaches and players are able to stay in the zone of optimal performance, then the atmosphere provides for a high level of enjoyable soccer. The love of the game is strengthened.

When education alone is used to try to improve the soccer culture it usually fails. In a classroom setting, adults easily verbalize an intellectual acceptance of the goals of a positive soccer culture. But on the field, as soon as the match pressure rises, adults will start to poison the soccer environment. If it remains unchecked, the negative contagion will be so great that disasters often take place on their pitch. Adults who did not go to the game to create a negative scene get caught in the performance anxiety of the game and lose their focus. Negative behavior follows and the environment is poisoned. No wonder that young people do not want to play in that kind of environment.

Iowa Youth Soccer Gets Involved

In Spring 2003, the Iowa Youth Soccer Association began a pilot program - one that I helped design - called "Performance Partners: Developing A Love Of The Game." It was implemented statewide in the fall of 2004. Performance Partners is designed to help all adults involved in youth soccer learn the performance skills necessary to contain the performance anxiety that can arise during any soccer game. When all adults are using these skills, a positive contagion is put into place and the environment stays positive. This allows the players' love of the game to continue to grow.

All adult referees, coaches and parents will benefit from this skill training. The soccer culture will be improved. Young players will develop and maintain a love of the game. When the intrinsic love of the game is nurtured, young athletes develop into stronger and more confident players. They can use the same performance skills to stay focused and not be caught by performance anxiety themselves. When adults do not feed the performance anxiety of the field then the player can utilize anxiety control and begin to believe they can perform under pressure.

Performance Improves In A Healthy Soccer Culture

The overall skill level in the America game will continue to increase as the soccer culture is improved. This improvement will start at the U-6 level and will continue all the way up the ladder to the U-19 level.

The success of the program will result in fewer yellow and red cards, fewer disagreements among parents, and a higher level of game performance and player satisfaction. It is a win-win situation when players play better, love the game and want to keep playing and improving their game. They are less likely to choke under pressure or experience burnout.

As all participants (adult and youth) learn to perform better under pressure, the American soccer game will continue to improve and meet the many goals that have been set to improve the level of American soccer. When adults learn to contain their performance anxiety, young players will develop many skills including developing a love of the game.

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