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Lost in Translation
by Susan Boyd, December 3rd, 2009 10:45AM



By Susan Boyd

Watching my grandson's soccer game last week, I was reminded that even when we think kids aren't listening, they really are, it's just that they don't understand us. But they try, because they want to please us. The following results come from some of the most confusing and therefore entertaining vignettes of my journey through youth soccer.

* A U6 coach attempted to exhort his tiny players to get more energy into the game. "Come on. Pick it up you guys." With some confusion the team paused to consider this instruction. "What are you stopping for? I said pick it up." With a shrug of his shoulders, one player ran over to the ball rolling across the field, and picked it up.

* At an indoor game the teams were 3v3 using the smaller Pugg goals. When the players came out for the second half, we noticed that the team on the near side only had two players on the field. The coach started to laugh, walked over to the goal and pulled the third player out of the far back edges of the Pugg. "But you told me to get in goal," the frustrated 5-year-old shouted.

* During a particularly combative U10 game, the coach of one team was continually barking instructions to his players. One girl seemed frozen unable to respond to the increasingly strident orders from her coach. Finally, on the verge of tears she turned to him, "What do you mean goal-side? Which side of the goal?"

* In a post game dissection, the coach, trying to explain passing, asked if anyone could do a cross. A player popped up his hand. "I can do that. We do it before we pray."

* Once when Robbie was playing in a 3v3 tournament he got the ball and began to dribble down the field. I cheered, or so I thought, "Go Robbie go!" He stopped immediately. Stomping his foot, he yelled right at me "I'm running as fast as I can."

* When Bryce was 8 he used to run behind the goal during defensive plays. It took us a couple weeks to piece it all together. The coach told him to defend the far post.

* Innovation saved the day when a U8 girl was admonished several times during the game to "mark her man." First of all it was a girls game and second of all she had nothing to write with. After the fourth or fifth insistence a light bulb went on. She picked up some dirt, ran over to the sidelines, rubbed it on her father, and then looked proudly to her coach.

* Another coach explaining defensive midfield to his young player was telling him that he needed to move up during offense and then run back during defense. Unfortunately he said "I need you to straddle both lanes." A bowling reference in a soccer pep talk just doesn't cut it.

We parents all too often forget that what we know about the world we learned through decades of experience. What seems abundantly clear to us comes across as confusing and occasionally ridiculous to our half-pint players. Bless them for wanting to do the right thing, so we need to just enjoy the ride.

It may be a cliché, but it's true: they are young for such a short time. Let them invent their world. What they discover can be more fun to experience with them than what we try so hard to teach them. Their fresh minds can translate life into adventure.

(Susan Boyd blogs each Monday on, you can read her blogs as well as others at .)

Do you have an idea for a Youth Insider Soccer column? We'd love to hear it. E-mail us at:

  1. Jim Froslid
    commented on: December 3, 2009 at 11:17 a.m.
    Here is my best example of "lost in translation:" I explained to my team that when the ball goes over the touchline, I want us to take our throw-ins as soon as possible in order to "catch the other team sleeping." After the game I asked if everyone had fun and the girl in the back raised her hand and said, "coach I did not see any players on the other team with their eyes closed when we took our throw-ins."

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