Play with joy!

This is just as important for the youngster playing recreationally as it is for the youngster with elite talent. They need to enjoy the game.

As a referee amongst many dozens of youngsters on the field every week I see too much sadness because of misguided parents and coaches. You can see it on their faces. You can see it in their body language.

Parents, please find the right soccer environment for your son or daughter. Make sure they are having a good time. And simply focus on the positive.

If it was important for Neymar then surely it’s important for all youngsters:

Clubs were going all-out for Neymar when he was 13. His talents were in abundance and it drew more money than the family had ever seen.

But Neymar’s dad turned down a very lucrative offer from Real Madrid, instead staying with hometown club Santos.

“Just six days into our trip to Madrid, my son and I couldn’t take any more. Everything just felt different for us.

I’ve had many struggles in my life. I’m an adult, a grown man, but my son was just a kid and I could sense that he felt overwhelmed by it all.

Sometimes being pushed like that can be hugely beneficial, but sometimes it can be equally detrimental.

The air was getting heavier. He missed everything. It was too early. I didn’t care that we were abdicating from so much money.

All I wanted was for him to continue to play with joy. And there was no joy on those days.

No money could ever change that.”

– Neymar Sr.

One of Neymar’s tattoos reads ‘Ousadia e Alegria’, which translate to ‘boldness and joy’.

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

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