Meet: Jason Edwards
From: Wales, living in the USA
Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?
Jason Edwards 25 from Wales. Head Coach for FC Pittsburgh 2002 and 2001 Squad, PA West ODP Coach and 2nd Assistant at Point Park University. UEFA “C” license holder and USSF C License Holder.
Started Coaching at the age of 15 at rec level in the UK, quickly spiraled into a profession at the age of 18. Never looked back since. Came to America for a working vacation. 3 years later, married and happily living my dream of coaching in the USA.
(In your opinion) How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports environment?
At Grassroots level, parents are the most influential gear in a player’s development. Here in the US it’s clear to see that success is often over shadowed progress and development by lack of understanding and appreciation to the sport by parents.
The athlete feeds from support and reflection that parents give. In turn determines the intensity and the willingness of athletes simply from their viewing of their idol(s) that is their parents.
(In your opinion) What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?
Parental involvement is key. Parents are with their child all day, all the time out of school and their influence is huge for players and athletes. This can work both ways. Parents go home and counter produce any work or practice you as the coach have imbedded in the players that practice, or they can help support it, encourage it. Its important as a coach you bring all the parents in and make them become a coach at home from the players. Have them echo your words of wisdom at home, in the car. Have them help you achieve the goal you’ve set out for that season for the team, for their child. It’s also important to find the line where they don’t over step your mark. Where they know you’re the coach and they are the vehicle for maximum development. I urge all parents to get involved and support their child and the team but most importantly support the coach.
How have you as a coach/club attempted to increase parental involvement?
As a coach of a team I will be handing out a packet of roles and responsibilities to players and parents to read and understand what is actually going on in practice, game day. Help parents understand why a player might not close to the ball. Does she have another role from last week to this one? Is there a new game plan? Is she learning something new?
One of the best things I’ve seen and it has to be done in the US due to lack of culture and understanding in soccer, is that, at a younger age group the parents must interact and play with their child during practice. It gives them confidence in relation to the parent and the ball, understanding what their child is going through and expectation the coaches is giving out and more importantly understand the true challenges the child goes through in growing in the sport. Soccer is so far behind in the US in understanding of the sport and at young ages of 4-6 year olds. Having their parents involved helps understanding and information transfer from Coach to Player.
What challenges have you faced by attempting to increase the level of parental involvement?
Information. Wrong information. Having some parents that have huge influence in players in game time and just shouting information to playere that doesn’t fit the scenario at hand. This also ties in to lack of culture and understanding in America to soccer. Here is an example. I have a new Goal Keeper. Great athlete but doesn’t really get the game. I’m working on playing from the back. She’s overwhelmed with being in a game scenario and I’m waiting for her to work out the role I’ve given her (To bowl the ball to the defenders) Defender are out wide waiting for the ball to be distributed and I can see her thinking about her role and task and as she’s thinking her father yells, “BOOT IT”. She boots the ball over my head, out of the field and into the tall grass. Her father thinks he’s done a good job and his daughter has done a fantastic soccer play because she booted the ball what actually happened is her development has been stunned in the area of her game.
Have you seen a difference in youth athletes when parental involvement is embraced not neglected and/or ignored?
I think there’s always difference when you add or subtract any involvement in an athlete’s life. As a coaching community we need to make sure that any influence by parents are the right one and if their included that it creates a great environment for player growth. The harsh reality is that less of an involvement can also help players thrive.
What advice would you give coaches that are unsure and/or afraid about increasing parental involvement within youth sports?
In my opinion every coach should embrace parent’s involvement and have them help you develop all that you can. Having them on your team, helping you work and develop these players will make your life as a coach, easier and much more successful. Having them echo all you say at home, in the car will really help further player development and progression. Its a great idea to have them support you as a coach and as a person. It will build respect and understanding from the player to the coach.
For those parents unaware of their influential role within youth sports, what advice would you give them?
Your role as a parent is so influential. My advice is that you should embrace all changes with your player and help your coach do the best for the player. Learn what the coach is trying to do and help them get the message across to the player. In any situation don’t under cut or undermine the information he or she gives. They might see it a little different than you do and could be for the best for the player.
What is next for you as a coach / club / organization?
Finally closing the door on College club soccer, with two National appearances and ranking up to top 16 in the nation, I’m ready for a new challenge. I’ll be working with FC Pittsburgh to help grow and develop the club to compete with the best in the city and neighboring area. Completing more coaching qualifications and further my education is also on the cards. The world is my oyster; I can’t learn sat here on my couch.
You can find more about Coach Jason on these social media outlets:
Coach Jason, would highly recommend The Sporting Influencer as a source of great content for everyone involved in football.
Thank you to Coach Jason Edwards, for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.
The Sporting Influencer