Steinberg: It's Pilot Cup time

Last year I had the pleasure of speaking on the field at the awards presentation for the Daily Pilot Cup. It was heartwarming to experience our community coming together to support third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders as they competed.

Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Sports Editor Steve Virgen and all of the giving volunteers are to be complimented for the way in which they have created this bonding event. And, major kudos to Kirk McIntosh, who takes time away from his busy law practice to serve as tournament director.

This year's 13th annual tournament will start Tuesday and concludes June 3. The games are played in Costa Mesa on the fields at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa High and Davis Elementary School.

My children Jon, Matt and Katie spent a collective 22 years playing soccer in Newport Beach AYSO. That meant that I had years of Saturday mornings on the sidelines.

Soccer is the first organized sport that most children ever play. It is the first time they have a chance to be measured against their peers. It can be a time of extraordinary empowerment or a traumatizing crushing of their self esteem.

Coaching plays a major factor in creating the perceptual prism that kids view the experience with, and so does parenting.

Because I am concerned that how to parent children in youth sports is a rarely discussed or taught skill I co-wrote a book with Dave Smith on the subject that will be published later this year. No one instructs parents as to whether they should encourage their kids to be young Vince Lombardis and win at all costs, or if enjoying the experience is the key.

There is no "parenting license" that is required. If your son or daughter is not getting major play time, the team is losing, they are playing an undesirable position, or the coach is not nurturing – should you counsel your kids to assert themselves with the coach to improve their situation? Or, should they accept the situation and build character?

Parents can confuse their own desires to have their children be a star with the child's actual needs.

Type A parents may try to live through their kids and be unduly prideful with success and embarrassed with anything less.

I wrote earlier this year about a time when my daughter Katie was crying on the field after her team lost in the playoffs. I ran out on the field to console her. She looked at me and said, "I'm not crying because we lost Dad, I'm crying because this means I won't get to see all my friends on the team as much."

We need to be careful as parents to allow our kids to chart their own paths and not impose our own reactions on theirs. Time spent watching games on the sidelines is important to our children, but not as important as one-on-one time spent with them.

Children tend to be more focused on how their parents act than on what their parents say. Kids are easily embarrassed by over-the-top parental behavior. Even worse is the parents who berate the referees or coaches. The people who coach and officiate are also busy parents who care enough to volunteer their unpaid time and energy to providing a productive learning environment for the young players. It's about the kids, not the parents.

Some of the sideline behavior has been so distracting and negative that the Pilot Cup has actually enforced a new rule which allows the referee to penalize a team for their fans' behavior.

Soccer can teach invaluable life skills to young participants. They can learn self-discipline, teamwork, performance under pressure, resilience and never quitting. It shouldn't be about the winning at that young age.

Please come out and support the community spirit, good parenting and youthful exuberance that the Pilot Cup experience offers.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or

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