little boy playing backyard soccer with Dad

The 10 Best Tips for Great Soccer Parents: Wisdom from Steve Locker

March 31, 2024

In the realm of youth soccer, the journey is often as significant for the parents as it is for the young athletes. Steve Locker, the visionary behind Locker Soccer Academy in Powell, Ohio, offers invaluable advice for soccer parents, aiming to enrich this journey with joy, health, and personal growth. Drawing from his own experiences as a coach, parent, and advocate for holistic child development, Steve shares personal stories and insights that resonate deeply with parents navigating the world of youth soccer.

1. Embrace the Multi-Sport Approach

Steve cautions against early sports specialization, advocating for a diverse athletic experience to develop a well-rounded muscular system. He notes, “It’s because they’re specialized and their muscular system isn’t developed in a well-rounded way… When they go outside of that range of motion, that’s when they start getting hurt.”

2. Happiness and Health Over Performance

Reflecting on his own children’s journey, Steve emphasizes the importance of happiness and health. “I always told my wife… I want them to be happy and I want them to be healthy and health conscious,” he shares, underlining that these values far outweigh sporting achievements.

3. The Importance of Social and Mental Well-being

Acknowledging the challenges posed by COVID-19 and intense sports cultures, Steve stresses the significance of addressing mental health and social skills, highlighting the academy’s role in fostering a supportive community for young athletes and their families.

4. Parent Participation is Key

For the youngest athletes, Steve advises parents to be actively involved without stressing over perfect participation. “If your child is off doing something else… that’s OK. As long as he’s happy and running,” he advises, prioritizing enjoyment and engagement over strict adherence to drills.

5. Celebrate Each Child's Unique Development Path

Steve urges parents to recognize and celebrate their child’s progress, no matter how small. “You’ll start to see your child develop better listening skills, better social skills… more confident in the way they touch the ball,” he observes, pointing out the broader benefits of soccer beyond just the sport.

6. Dynamic Exercises Over Rigid Training

Highlighting the academy’s innovative approach, Steve mentions, “Every little thing that we do in a class… has a purpose.” He advocates for dynamic exercises that promote motor skills development, agility, and coordination in fun, engaging ways.

7. Listen and Learn from Your Child

Steve shares a personal anecdote about his son learning to pass a soccer ball, underscoring the value of letting children learn at their own pace. “I wasn’t worried about my kid kicking the ball with the inside of his foot. Ever. I let him learn it,” he reflects, suggesting patience and trust in the learning process.

8. Imitation as a Powerful Learning Tool

Drawing from his personal learning experiences, Steve champions imitation and observation as effective ways for children to acquire new skills. “Everything from imitation watching people do it… You learn it all by copying,” he notes, encouraging parents to allow their children the freedom to explore and mimic.

9. The Magic of Pickup Soccer

Steve is a strong advocate for unstructured play, especially through the academy’s Friday night pickup soccer program. He believes it’s crucial for kids to play freely, fostering natural skill development, creativity, and joy in the game.

10. Create a Supportive Community

Finally, Steve highlights the importance of building a supportive soccer community for both children and parents. By encouraging positive interactions and shared experiences, families can create a nurturing environment that benefits everyone involved.
Steve Locker’s insights provide a roadmap for soccer parents, emphasizing the holistic development of young athletes. By following these tips, parents can help nurture not just talented soccer players, but happy, healthy, and well-rounded individuals.
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