Many of us will have dreamt of growing up to be world-class footballers – but for 99% of people, that dream never becomes a reality.
So, instead, our attention turns to helping our children learn from our mistakes, develop their game and reach their potential.
In this article, we offer everything you need to know to become a great football parent and help your child succeed.
Be a Good Role Model
First and foremost, before training, nutrition and even encouragement, be a good role model. This is fundamental in helping your child develop into a well-rounded, hardworking individual.
If you are pacing the side of the pitch, shouting threats to the referee – no matter how visually-impaired he may appear to be – what message are you sending your young one?
Or perhaps you don’t eat well and don’t exercise – if this is the case, why should your child eat their greens and take training seriously?
You can see the pattern emerging. Everything that you do, your child notices and ultimately copies, even in subtle ways. So be calm, be sensible and be the best role model you can be.
No matter how perfect you think things should be, allow your child to make mistakes. In fact, we’d go so far as to say encourage mistakes.
When your child knows that they won’t be berated for making mistakes, they are more likely to try new things and take risks on the pitch.
Sure, a fumbled step-over or a mistimed overhead kick may not be the most sensible thing to do in their own penalty area, but by taking these risks it broadens their game and ultimately builds their confidence.
Know Your Role
Unless you are the coach of the team, try to resist instructing your child from the side line. For example, how many times have you seen an opportunity on goal open up for your child and you’ve yelled ‘SHOOOOT!’?
This may seem like very sensible advice, but you are not the coach.
Your child has enough to think about without hearing their mum or dad scream at them to close down the opposition or when to pass. They also may be working on something in particular – such as a new technique or passing with their left foot – and have that to focus on. Don’t distract them from their own game.
Of course, shout general encouragement and go crazy when they score. Freely analyse the game and their performance with them afterwards, but leave the on-field instruction to the player and coach.
Kids can know a surprising amount these days, including how to beat you in FIFA ’21 (…hang your head in shame).
Yet, you are the parent and it’s up to you to be on top of the things that matter – the things they need to do to stay fit and healthy.
For example, taking care of their kit. Most kids are happy to wear anything, but you will be wise enough to find the right football boots that fit their feet well to avoid issues down the line. You will always have a spare pair of shinpads in the car, just in case. You’ll also wash their kit, sew their rips and, inevitably, clean their boots when they forget to do it themselves.
Training and exercise are another thing most parents will know more about than their child. Perhaps this is knowing when to push your kid to put in more effort during training, or to ease off when they are complaining of illness or injury. It can also be the art of setting up a training session (be sure to check out our separate article on how to make training fun for children).
Nutrition is another area that you should be aware of, and perhaps the most important. For example, a child may not know that banana on toast is a better pre-match snack than a chocolate doughnut, but you should.
Fuelling your child for football is important, especially if they are already very active. The best way to do this is to ensure that they eat a balanced diet containing plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholefoods, and drink enough water throughout the day for effective hydration. Allow treats, sure, but make sure the fundamentals are taken care of.
You will also know what to feed kids before and after matches to help them fuel and recover efficiently, and can also consider supplements to give them the boost they need. For example, our Hydrate90® effervescent tablets provide electrolytes, vitamins and minerals with no sugar, to help keep them hydrated during matches.
Stay in the Present
We all have aspirations of developing the next teenage football sensation and reclining in the hot tub of our second mansion, purchased for us by our little millionaire footballer…
…but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Which brings us to the next point.
There is no harm in your child – or you – dreaming big. Having lofty ambitions is a good thing. Even just thinking ahead to the next level of football is a wise move.
But it is also worth remembering that the present moment is always the most important. Children are only children for so long, and this is your chance to enjoy footballing moments with your youngster. Never let ambition stand in the way of your child’s enjoyment.
As you can see, being a great footballing parent extends beyond simply driving your kid to training and buying them new shorts.
Following the guidance in this article may not guarantee that you produce the next Neymar or Lucy Bonze, but it will ensure your child has the best chance of fulfilling their potential and enjoying the process.
Click here to shop our Premium Footballer Nutrition range.