1. Tell them you love to watch them play – This is the most important thing you can say after a game, win or lose. Some more great advice: avoid discussing their performance on the ride home!
  2. Keep it fun – The number one reason that children quit sports is that the experience is no longer fun. Remind your child that participating in each sporting activity must be fun and enjoyable.
  3. Play with them – Even if you weren’t a soccer player, play with them wherever and whenever you can.
  4. Teach sportsmanship and mutual respect at the earliest ages – Children must be taught from the youngest ages to respect themselves, their opponents, the referees, and their coaches.
  5. Teach them to be a humble winner and a gracious loser – This is an invaluable life lesson that will forever pay dividends.
  6. Push them to give 100% effort – In training. In games. In everything they do. Always.
  7. Focus on the process more than the result – Our obsession with winning is destroying youth sports in our country. Focus instead on your child’s incremental improvement and on their experience.
  8. Teach them not to blame – No matter what happens, no blaming teammates or referees (or coaches)!
  9. Avoid early specialization – Wait until at least the onset of puberty before even thinking about encouraging your child to channel his/her efforts into a single sport.
  10. Strongly encourage free play – The game is the best teacher. Have you ever seen a truly creative and highly skilled soccer player? They honed those skills playing pick-up on the streets or in somebody’s backyard. More importantly, that is where they fell in love with the game.
  11. Don’t coach from the sidelines – You will only confuse or distract your child and you will undermine and therefore offend his or her coach. Less is more. There is only one voice and it belongs to the coach.
  12. Watch soccer highlights and training videos on YouTube – YouTube is full of amazing videos of great players past and present. Encourage your child to watch them and then to go out into the yard and emulate what he or she saw on video. Also, follow D.F.C.’s twitter feed, @DFCDragons, for some great content.
  13. Take them to watch the pros – Go see the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium and watch games on TV – The BPL on weekend mornings on NBC Sports, La Liga in the afternoons on BEIN, and Champions League periodically on Fox Soccer.
  14. Encourage them to dream and to love the game – Soccer is a beautiful game and the possibilities are endless. Encourage them to dream huge dreams – to become Lionel Messi or Neymar – but don’t pressure them or ever let them feel that they have let you down.