The new season is coming up very quickly. With that in mind we wanted to share the following tips to help parents and players be prepared on and off the field for a successful season.
Tip #1: Get Physical
Being ready for the new season means being ready to MOVE. Hopefully many of the players have been able to take advantage of the camp programs offered by There are a number of ways to get young athletes ready to be in top condition to perform in practice and in games.
- Cross Train- swimming, biking, pickleball, volleyball are all great activities to get you moving
- Running- not just jogging miles…sprinting, darting, changing directions – Tag games are awesome
- Strength- YES, even young (U9+) players can work on getting stronger using basic Body Weight exercises. Here are some tips:
- Get on the Ball- juggle, practice moves, organize small-sided games at home or at a park. Using Techne is also great and you can track your improvements
- Make it FUN- Engage the WHOLE family. Mom and Dan can participate, not just supervise!
Tip #2: Nutrition
Eating right is important in order to fuel the athlete for performance. But it can’t start the day before the game, or even the week of practice. It starts NOW. Time to put aside the summer picnic menu and focus on these simple guidelines:
- Balanced Diet- whole grain breads, cereals, and lean proteins (chicken, fish, lean red meats) supported by lots of vegetables and fruits (think dark green and orange)
- Reduce Sugars- try to limit the sugary snacks and read labels, many “healthy” treats are loaded with extra sweets.
- Plan HEALTHY snacks- starting thinking and planning about pre-practice, pre-game, or even between game (tournament) snacks so that you are prepared with healthy, nutritious, and tasty options that your child will be excited to grab
- Hydrate- our bodies cannot perform without plenty of water. Start a habit of drinking 8-12 oz in the morning, prior to meals, and at night. As well as before, during and after activities.
Here are some additional Nutrition resources:
Tip #3: Gear Up
Whether you are new to the game or excited to be returning, it is important that you have everything you need to perform when you take the field. Here are some key things to remember in order to be geared up and ready to roll!
- Have the RIGHT GEAR!
- Soccer shoes, shin guards, a ball, and a water jug are the ESSENTIAL items for every player
- Have the RIGHT FIT!
- Returning players should try on all of their gear from last year ahead of time to be sure it all fits.
- All players need to be sure that their gear is appropriate for their age and level of play
- Shoes should NOT be too big! Soccer players will struggle to perform (especially younger ones) if their soccer shoes are TOO big.
- Shin guards should appropriately protect the front of the lower leg but should not be too large. They also should be secured to stay in place (straps or sleeves can be useful)
- Ball should be age group appropriate, Little Lions-U8:#3, U9-U12:#4, U13+:#5 It also needs to be inflated, so maybe adding an inexpensive pump is a good idea!
- Water jug should be at least 32 oz or more!
- Name and club/team should be on ball and water bottle!
- Parents remember that higher cost DOES NOT always mean higher performance for youth players. The right fit and the right price can be found!
Tip #4: Setting Goals
Establishing goals for the upcoming season can be a great way to focus on things to work on, track development, and provide incentive for continued growth, effort, and participation. It is important though to be sure the goals are appropriate and effective. Here are some general guidelines:
- Personal and process vs outcome- establish goals focused on things that the athlete can control and that are individual focused.
- Winning, scoring goals, keeping shutouts are outcomes that may not be under the athletes control.
- Effort, attendance, behavior, new skill acquisition or performance are goals that the athlete can control.
- United goals- have parents and players both work on a list of goals/outcomes for the season. Come back together and see if these are aligned. If not, be sure to review and redo!
- Avoid rewards for goals- incentivizing achievements (especially outcome goals such as scoring or winning) can show short-term positives, but generally lead to lower long-term motivation and/or frustration.
Tip #5: Mentality
Coming into the new season with the right mentality is key for both parents and players. Fostering good sportsmanship and a ‘Growth Mindset’ can benefit the entire family on and off the field. Here are a some guidelines to help get everyone get in the right mindset for a successful season:
- Reframing winning/losing and success- Help your athlete focus more on how they are playing (see Tip #4-Goal Setting)
- Legendary sportswriter Garland Rice wrote: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks, not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.” He was definitely on to something. How children approach PLAYING the game is going to be greater to their future than whether they WIN or LOSE.
- Encourage persistence- discuss challenges and failures as both a part of the process and learning opportunities. Remind players that the great athletes they see on tv have all had struggles before successes. Use the ‘Success Iceburg’ below to demonstrate what comes before trophies and triumphs.
- Practice positive self-talk- negativity, whether it comes from the athlete or the parents, can sabotage any performance. Work as a family on developing a more positive environment before, during, and after practices and games.
- Teach your child to recognize negative self-talk. Listen for when you hear your child say things about themself that are negative, things that begin with “I can’t”, “I never” or “I always”…
- Help your child turn things around by identifying how they can improve and succeed.
- Give your child positive phrases to say-“I got this!”, “I CAN do this!” “I AM, I CAN, I WILL”
- Model positive self-talk at home, on the car ride, and at the field
- Develop good sportsmanship- Families that focus on things such as teamwork, gratitude, effort, encouraging others, and respect find much more enjoyment in sport, than those who solely focus on winning and losing. Click on this link to see tips from Positive Parenting Solutions on how your family can work together to foster better Sportsmanship this season: 10 Ways to Teach Kids a Winning Attitude – On and Off the Field