Set Up

As the under 8s are usually the first team to play on any given day, for home matches you need to set up the goals and corner flags. These you will find in the equipment shed. As you walk onto the pitch area there is a path located to your right and the shed is on a small pathway between the bushes. Assemble the posts on the grass area and clip on the nets. You then carry them up onto the pitch and secure them with iron pegs from the shed. Last insert the corner flags. For home matches you will also need a ref and ideally this should be one of the parents other than the managers with another parent acting as linesperson. For home games fill in a matchcard and get the visiting team to fill in their details.

Don’t let it get too serious

Its fun. It should always be fun. Parents as well as children can get too uptight when it comes to matches. At underage training is more important than playing. Don’t focus too much in conversation with your own kids ( remember what you say about team members at home can be repeated by little ears- adults don’t have the monopoly on gossip!), team members or other parents as to who you are playing, how important or not the match is, etc. You can go a whole season without winning a match and one moment, one goal, one tackle one win can be sweeter that all the wins of a top team and its one that you and your child will remember.

Travel Safely

Every child should have safe transport to an away game. That means proper seats and seat belts in a car. Kids should not be dropped off to an away game- you should have a meeting area and travel together.

Warm up properly.

In a training session everything is ordered. In an away match the pitch and surroundings can be unfamiliar which can be very intimidating to a child. Get there early and warm up with a mini version of what you do in a match. The familiar is good- the same warm up drill, familiar faces on the touchline, a sense of team. Get your team in a huddle before a game, talk to them at their height- and most of all tell them they are great.

Everyone plays

In underage (less than 11 a side) games everyone plays, and generally for an equal amount of time. But never put a child into a situation where you feel he/she lacks confidence. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger, at 8 it can terrify you and turn you off the game! Rotate positions; particularly goalie. Don’t always start with the same children. Maybe for a few games but then rotate. If players don’t turn up for training or are regularly late- first tell their parents it is difficult to start them. At 8 it’s not their fault and if the parent doesn’t respond then make your selection. If you have exceptional players they can start more, as players with talent do need to be challenged a little. Remember if a child has not started as much as other children, it’s human to make mistakes- correct this but also work harder to get that child up to the average standard of football by giving them extra attention in training. Judge yourself at season end not by the amount of matches you won but by the progress of the less talented children.

Don’t deal with Parent Issues on the Sideline

If a parent has a difficulty with the way you manage the team simply have a quiet word after the match or training session. Avoid any confrontation on the sideline in the presents of players, parents and other spectators. Suggest meeting away from the football environment. Parents will genuinely have concerns from time to time and these concerns are usually resolved following constructive dialogue. However should the situation become increasingly difficult seek were appropriate the intervention of the Director of Coaching or Child Welfare officer or a member of the committee. If there is not a specific complaint but you find touchline conversations a little difficult encourage any such parent to become more involved- maybe ask them to ref, assist with putting up the equipment etc. Many issues that arise are just communication issues and these are less likely to arise where parents are more involved.

Encourage Fairplay at all times

Set an example- refs do get it wrong- but when you are out of order admit it, generally with a smile. If a child is hurt- don’t wait for the whistle go straight on. Always greet your opposite numbers and wish them luck. Shake hands and congratulate/commiserate after a match. If you see a child call a ball wrong, correct them. Don’t encourage overly aggressive play- you might have done this as an adult but you would not like someone to do this to your child. Don’t criticise the ref or other team within ear shot of your own team.

Encourage, encourage, encourage

Grab a minute with you team after the match and tell them how great they were. If they lost 10-0, point out a tackle that otherwise would have made it 11-0, if you are down 5-0 at half time- tell them the second half is like a new match. If you lose 5-1 but score the last goal tell them it was great to get the last goal. We are all human and will criticise from the touchline – correct it immediately with a positive statement.

End Of the Match

Get the children to shake hands with the other team and likewise with the other managers. It is good to get your team into a huddle and praise them and agree the next training session. Then get the help of other parents to disassemble the goals and store back in the equipment shed unless there is another match on the pitch after you and the teams for same should have arrived by the time you are finished your match. Give the jerseys to a different parent in turn after each match to wash and ensure that they are returned by the next training session rather than the next matchday. Don’t forget to send your results to the relevant league secretary (Stephen McGuire for SDFL, Mark Dowling for 11-a-side DDSL and Mark Dowling for 7-a-side DDSL).