My three children spent a combined 22 years in AYSO in Corona del Mar, and many more in Newport Beach Little League, youth basketball and football. I saw a majority of coaches who were talented and giving, and I saw parents who were incredibly supportive.
I also saw some outrageous behavior by parents and coaches. I have decided to write a book, "The Golden Goal," on parenting youth athletes. The book is set to be published in the fall.
When I saw friends of mine charge out of the stands or coaching boxes to yell at kids, umpires or coaches, I knew it was time to discuss these issues. It is supposed to be about the kids.
Written and performance tests are not required to parent a youth athlete. No parenting license is required. But enormous amounts of time and focus go into participation in youth sports and the parenting it requires in a community like ours.
Soccer is usually the first experience a child has in organized sports and comparing his or her talents to other children. It can be a time of extraordinary empowerment. Sports can emphasize important fundamental values like self-respect, self-discipline, teamwork, resilience, perseverance and courage. But it can also be a discouraging time which crushes their self esteem. And the perception of someone as untalented and a loser can spread into teasing and bad treatment at school.
Children model adult behavior: when parents scream at coaches and referees and at their children, that is a powerful example. When coaches treat the composition of their teams with more scouting and maneuvering than NFL teams, and put so much pressure on kids to win, that is another.