Who has some “sage advice” for …
Players: To love the game, love playing the game, compete & work hard, and always have fun.
Experienced Coaches: To teach kids to be great people first and also to be great soccer players, and to never stop teaching the love of the game.
Beginning Coaches: To focus on foot skills and fundamentals first, to have conviction in the skills you are teaching (which will sometimes mean losing games), and to always be supportive of the kids – even when it is hard.
Opposing Coaches: Take a deep breath, make sure you are having fun, and don’t lose perspective when things get tough.
Parents: The fundamentals are key to building long-term player success. The tricks to you use to win at the U8 level, are not how you develop players who will be successful in the future. Be patient, be supportive, and the wins will come.
Referees: We have a lot of young referees in our league who have to manage a lot of adults (who act like kids). My advice to them is to trust their eyes, be confident, and be decisive in calling the game. Adults can be like sharks, and indecision smells like blood in the water.
And – If he had a magic-wand the major change(s) he would make in youth soccer? I’d change the money and time that youth soccer is starting to require. The opportunity to play, especially at higher levels, is getting further out of reach for people, and the single-sport specialization is beginning to happen at younger and younger ages. It’s certainly not an issue that is exclusive to youth soccer; in fact, it’s something I wish would change throughout all of youth sports. Kids shouldn’t lose out on the opportunity to play because their families can’t afford it, and they shouldn’t be encouraged/forced to pick a single sport at a young age.