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Monday, April 19, 2010

Youth soccer players too often act like the pros

Soccer is a sport that seems to engender on-field reactions that you don’t typically see in other sports.

Diving, for one—though those of us familiar with hockey know it can happen on the ice, too.

But it’s more in the overt demonstrative displays that separate the sport from most others. It was interesting to note in a recent hockey broadcast that the commentators made a point of referencing a very slight gesture by Toronto Maple Leaf forward Phil Kessel. Kessel had passed the puck to a teammate, and when his line-mate also passed the puck rather than take a clear shot on goal, Kessel reacted with a gesture that clearly showed he felt his colleague should have taken a shot instead of passed.

Again, this was a very subtle reaction, not likely picked up by most spectators- only by the TV cameras on the replay.

That kind of action—magnified several times—is, sadly, commonplace in soccer, the “beautiful” game which would be much more beautiful without certain kinds of displays.

This includes:

all-too-frequent arguing by players on-field over virtually every call by the referee

 young players with their hands up in the air disputing those calls

 players overtly showing their displeasure when a teammate makes what they consider to be a bad pass

 the aforementioned intentional diving, trying to deceive the referee

Other than the diving (and even then it is comparably infrequent), you rarely if ever see this kind of bickering between teammates in hockey, where the “code” of in-game behaviour seems quite different.

Visit any local soccer pitch. There are too many young soccer players who yap at the referees, point out their teammates’ errors and sometimes even yell at parents on the sideline.

I’m not sure when all this behaviour started, but youth coaches have a responsibility to not only teach and demonstrate the soccer skills necessary to compete, enjoy and succeed in the sport. They—and we parents—bear a responsibility to teach appropriate on-field behaviour to youngsters who emulate the “pros”—regardless of how poorly the pros act.