Evaluation + Team Formation = STRESS!
Earlier this month Kings Hammer Soccer Club announced plans for tryouts and team formation. This announcement generally elevates the level of stress felt by all parties: Players, Parents, and Coaches. Given the changes in the tryout and team offers that have been introduced by Ohio Soccer, this year could provide even more of this stress. For this reason, we thought it would be appropriate to explore how all of us may be able to manage this part of the game a little more productively.
To kick off (pun intended) the conversation, let’s explore where the STRESS comes from. In an interview last year with Soccer Parenting, Sports Psychologist Stu Singer framed it this way:
STRESS = ANXIETY = FEAR
Here are the four triggers to our fear.
These four triggers lead to one thing: LACK OF CONTROL!
As a parent your mind is telling you these or similar thoughts
- What if they don’t make this team, what if there are new players, what if the coach is new?
- if I can take all the worry away, they won’t have to worry
- if I can get them in the right place, they can be seen the right way
- If I can keep them from struggling, they won’t face hardship and failure
- If I get the outcome that I want, they’ll get the outcome that they want
We are struggling to predict a future with too many variables that we cannot CONTROL.
As parents we have to recognize that we cannot control the process and we do not own the outcome. We have to embrace that our children are going to struggle, should struggle, and may FAIL…and that is OK. More importantly, parents need to recognize that if you are full of anxiety, you child is going to feel it and it is likely that it will impact their performance.
So, then the question is what do we have some control over as a parent? What can we do to handle it productively?
Here’s what we can have some control over.
- Let’s make sure they are rested. We can’t force them to sleep but try to get them to bed early.
- Let’s make sure that they ate relatively well.
- Let’s make sure that they’re hydrated.
- Let’s make sure everything is packed up and ready to go
- Let’s put them in a positive environment from house, to car, to field, and back
- Acknowledge feelings of stress, worry, and doubt – theirs and yours
There is one other action that both parents and coaches can engage in to help players be prepared for evaluations, team formations, struggles, change, and perhaps even disappointment. Ask them this question: “Who are you as a player?” Then let them form the answer…it will be hard for the adult (parent or coach) to sit this one out, but you need to. It may even take them several conversations to get to an answer. Here are some prompts that may help them:
- When are you your Best Soccer Self?
- What are they doing when they’re at their best?
- What do they look like, sound like and feel like?
- It cannot be outcome description.
- NOT “When I’m at my best, I’m scoring hat tricks.” “I am my best keeper when I make every save.”
What they can say is, “When I’m at my best, I’m taking people on. I’m making decisive runs. I’m demanding the ball.” “I am moving my feet.” I am taking good approaches.”
Parents and coaches can reinforce and model this approach with their conversations with the player/child.
- If they are a goal scorer, don’t talk to them about scoring goals. Talk to them about what it looks like to score goals. If they’re a defender, don’t talk about every tackle being perfect. Talk about what goes into defending well.
- Ask them what outcomes they are hoping for at the end of a season, what they hope to accomplish or what level they hope to play at next.
- Coaches can work to reinforce appropriate responses and should also be ready and willing to redirect inaccurate or unrealistic responses.
- Coaches should provide key steps to their development towards expressed goals
Both coaches and parents need to start these conversations EARLY. Keep in mind that sometimes we have to introduce something and allow them to just process it and sit with it before they can answer.
In addition, players (and many parents) need to be reminded that evaluations at the club level are not just a one- or two-day Tryout Date. They are on-going and continuous. Players do not change WHO they are at a one day evaluation, they establish this over the months of practices and games during the season.
Here are some additional resources both parents and coaches can explore on this topic:
- Soccer Parenting Interview with Stu Singer-Tryout and Performance Stress for Players and Parents
- Soccer Wire-Tips to help players deal with stress and emotions of tryout season
- The Dreaded Tryout Season! How To Deal With The Stress And Prepare For Tryouts
- Soccer Parenting with Christie Rampone- Perseverance When You Don’t Make a Team