As a parent, it’s so easy to get caught up in the hype around your young child. You see them on the football pitch expressing themselves, scoring and setting up goals. You see them do some very impressive things and take control of matches from a young age. It makes you believe that they could do it; they could go to the very top of the sport. The problem is that whilst you are having these thoughts, millions of parents worldwide are having the same thought process!
Not every child is going to make it. In fact, this is a common mistake for a lot of parents. Being quality at U15 level does not mean you will translate into the senior game. Many players show up well at U21 and even U23 level but cannot do it in the senior game. It’s a different sport – in many ways, it can feel like a different world.
So, the reality is that ‘making it’ is extremely slim. Indeed, as it was so expertly put in Business Insider, some academies are more likely to get hit by a meteorite than make it in the professional game!
While that might be a touch exaggerated for dramatics, it’s not really that far off the truth for many players. Many players simply commit everything to football but fall short due to a wide-ranging number of factors. How, then, do you prepare them for this?
Help your child view other opportunities
The first thing to do is to make sure that football is not the one and only. If you notice academic grades slipping due to their fixation on football, then as a parent it is your duty to act and do something about this.
Take the time to look at what they enjoy outside of football. Could any of these other activities and passions eventually lead to some kind of opportunity within that industry for a career?
Make it clear to your child that a tiny fraction of all footballers makes it professional. You might see thousands of plays on the TV and in video games but think of how many players who they played with who never made it. Always try and prepare your child for a future outside of football: not everyone can be involved in this amazing sport.
Another factor to think about is getting your child football involved without being a player. Many people can make a living in the game from being a coach. Coaching is an engrossing and rewarding experience and something that should help most young children find their feet from a young age. If you would like to make sure that your child has a future in football outside of being on the pitch, invest in their coaching badges.
Many young players today have their coaching badges before or not long after their senior debut. Starting young can only help your child see that, in the future, coaching could be their real pathway. In fact, many amazing young football coaches are not great football players. Being able to see the game is a vital skill, though, so encouraging them to build on their skills – even as a coach – should be recommended from a young age.
What about scouting and analytics?
A good way to show that football has a long-term career path outside of being a player is to get into scouting and/or analytics. Scouting is a vital part of football. You could become someone who spends time finding the next academy star. You could be someone who works on finding the first-team replacement for an outgoing player.
Whatever you think you have the eye to spot and to utilise, you should look to do so as soon as you can. You will find it much easier to go about scouting and analytical jobs, even freelance than you would make it as a player. While being a player is likely the go-to dream for most young players, helping to find the next generation of stars – or spotting problems in tactics – is an equally rewarding and accessible job that you could get involved with.
Let them know that failure is fine
The main problem for a young child is having all of their hopes and dreams of being a football player, and then failing. As a parent, it is your duty to let them know that failing to make it on the big stage isn’t just fine – it’s expected. No matter how good you are, something could hold you back from achieving your best.
That’s why we recommend that you let your children know that failure is not just part of progress, but it’s vital to progress. You should always look to give your child the confidence to know that, as long as they try, they should be in a better position.
Failure is a part of learning and failing to be a football player is just part of that wider learning curve. Keep that in mind, and you might a positive change in your children.
Help them appreciate the challenge
As a parent, it might seem harsh, but your job is to keep your child grounded. While they might be getting praised to high heaven from teammates and coaches, you need to keep their head small and their feet on the ground. Try and help them appreciate from a young age that today they are good, but tomorrow they could be old news.
This encourages your child to A) never rest on their laurels, thus always helping them to improve and B) retain a picture of the reality. When they are being filled with hype and being talked to about big moves and lucrative deals, the focus is easily lost.
With that in mind, we recommend that you look to help them appreciate that becoming a football isn’t easy, nor is it a short journey. This helps them to be prepared for the potential reality that they simply cannot make it as a footballer. They could, though, still have time to do something either related to football or unrelated. The sooner you stop them from feeling like it’s either a matter of time before they make it, the sooner you can help them retain that needed focus.
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