Occasionally, I am asked questions about the club environment. Most of those questions are about problems such as dealing with belligerent coaches or the blind eye that club administrators turn when a team is winning, but deeper life lessons are not being taught.
Sometimes though the question is about how can our club improve what we are doing? Here’s one such question that came across my desk.
How would you help build and create a culture of excellence? E.g. training, uniforms, standards, expectations?
I think the culture begins with the leaders in the club. That will be the top administrators and coaches. Certainly having the full board of directors on board is a major plus. They most importantly must walk the talk when it comes to the club’s mission statement and philosophy. The next most important group to get on track to create a culture of excellence is the parents. This is no doubt challenging and a never-ending aspect of the culture, but in the end, it is the most important. The parents influence all others in the club; players, coaches, and administrators – in that order.
Working with the parents regarding the sporting experience of children though is an area still largely ignored by clubs. Most still believe the priority for their efforts in player development. That once was the case, but not today. The reality is that the number one priority is the education of the soccer parent. That education is not necessarily about the tactics of the game or the rules for the age group. It certainly isn’t about how to raise children. No, it’s about the environment at matches, either positive or infamous ride home, the understanding of the long-term goals of youth soccer participation and it’s about the management of adult expectations of the return on investment. It is about being a support group for the youth soccer experience. Clearly the majority of parents fall into exactly that category as evidenced by the large numbers of young people playing the game all across our nation. The Parents section of the US Youth Soccer website has quality resources for clubs and parents. I encourage you to take advantage of the free materials and guidance there.