How to become a Revolution "soccer family"
If you're new to soccer, you might feel a bit like Roy and Moss above: you feel like you ought to know something, but ultimately it all seems so foreign! So you start reading up and you learn a few key phrases... and maybe you start to sound like Moss "saying football things in a football voice":
Or maybe you feel a bit more like Roy, hearing a friend talk about soccer, and you wanna be part of the conversation. So you give it a try and hilarity ensues...
All joking aside, since our kids are Revolution players, we hear Revo coaches, other parents, and even our own kids saying things that are part of the game and we want to know more. We want to understand more soccer strategy as our kids' coaches explain formations, strategies, set plays, and other aspects of the game. But lots of us—myself included—didn't grow up in a soccer family. It's no surprise, as soccer is still a growing sport in the USA (and wasn't hardly a "thing" in most places when we were all kids). So how can we learn more about the sport in order to understand better what's happening in games and work with our kids to improve their own skills?
I've identified four ways in which you can learn, or continue to learn, about the beautiful game, no matter if you're brand new to soccer or a life-long lover of the sport. What's more, most of these are things you can do with your kids and grow as a "soccer family".
Watch soccer. Watch lots of soccer.
The 2022 World Cup is coming up, so now's a great time to start watching soccer. It's easy to get started: first, pick a team. It almost doesn't matter who you pick; the point is to have someone to root for and learn about as a team. If you're going to root for the USA or Mexico because of where you come from, I recommend also picking a second team to have a hope of cheering in late-round knockout games. 😉 Germany, Argentina, Brazil, England, and France are all good secondary options, or primary options if you don't already have a team.
Next, learn as much as you can about a team. What formation do they play? (It doesn't matter if you don't understand formations; that'll come later as you learn more of the technical knowledge of soccer.) What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What is their history in the World Cup? Do they have any national rivals? Who are the star players on the team?
Finally, get a schedule of games and plan to watch all of their games. (Then look through the schedule and make a plan to watch any other games that look interesting.) Splurge on fancy cable or streaming channels, if necessary, to ensure you can see as many games as possible. (This will be a theme after World Cup; it can be tricky to find certain leagues, even popular ones, for streaming in the US.) Don't worry about understanding everything that happens in the games: just watch your team, find the players you recognize, cheer for wins, and weep for defeats. And no matter what, watch the final. If nothing else, you can say you did something simultaneously with nearly four billion other people in the world.
Watching a lot of soccer at the start of your soccer family journey will give you a sense for the flow of the game. You'll start to be able to see how 0–0 games can still have a lot of exciting moments. You'll start to intuitively see recycling passes, passes that switch the field, through balls, crosses, headers, saves, and defensive stops. You may not know what everything is called, but you'll also start to pick up the vernacular from the (hopefully English/British) announcers. And don't worry that you don't know it all: enjoy watching people who are at the absolute top of their sport!
After the World Cup, do the same sort of thing and choose a league and club to follow. I like the Premier League (England and Wales) and try to follow Manchester United, though it's become rather painful in recent years. Feel free to watch the other games in the league to get a sense for how the game is played. Unlike the World Cup where every country's style differs significantly, many teams in the same league play very similar styles of soccer. The Premier League is very physical, La Liga (Spain) is very skills-oriented and fluid, and Bundesliga (Germany) is fast and furious. If you aren't sure of a good league or club to watch, ask someone you know what they watch and just watch that too. Their help will come in handy in the next step as well...
Find someone to learn from (and argue with)
It's super helpful to have a friend or family member who knows a little more about soccer than you do so they can talk you through some of what you're watching. And as you learn, you can start to push back on some of their ideas with some of your own and get into good-natured arguments about soccer. (Don't worry about losing those arguments; the goal is not to be right, but to sharpen your understanding of the game!)
For me, it was my father-in-law, who came to the USA from Mexico when he was 16. He brought with him his diehard love of the Mexican men's national team and Las Águilas de Club América. But beyond his club and country, he's forgotten more about soccer than I will ever know. And boy does he love to talk about the sport!
So anytime we watched soccer together, I asked him a bunch of questions (some smart, some not so smart!). I asked about the offside rule. I asked about Messi vs. Ronaldo. I asked about Rafa Marquez and who was the best Mexican defender ever. I asked about specific plays as they happened in the game. We discussed legends of the past, stars of the present, the best formations, the best national teams, everything.
Eventually, I had picked up enough soccer and club knowledge that I started offering some opinions of my own. I said that Wayne Rooney was my favorite player because of his work rate and tenacity for the goal; he would tell me Rooney wasn't even the best player on Man U. I have said that Messi may, lamentably, never win a World Cup because Argentina cannot beat Germany; he would angrily, passionately defend his favorite player and La Albiceleste. We go at it, back and forth. (I still like Rooney, but my father-in-law was right about him.)
Now we mostly argue about what's wrong with Mexico and how to fix it. He's still right 90% of the time, but every once in a while I have a good idea. And the times I'm wrong, I get to hear his reasoning in long conversational discourse. I've learned an immeasurable amount of soccer from him.
Now, I get to be that voice of experience for my kids. It helps solidify our "soccer family" status when we can discuss every facet of a recently-ended Revo game, or watch a professional soccer match together and dissect it (and, yes, sometimes argue about it as well). I get to point out things I understand because my father-in-law sat with me, and more often than not my kids are starting to point out things I don't always see. It's a beautiful thing to have received and to pass down.
Read about the game
Sometimes watching soccer isn't enough to give you what you want to know about the style of soccer your kids play when they play with Revolution. You can watch Manchester City play an exciting new 4-1-4-1 formation, but how does that translate to our 2-3-3 formation in 9v9, and what do you tell your kid who's playing mostly in the right winger position? Sometimes you need a little more technical knowledge, and reading is the best—sometimes the only—way to get it.
Thankfully, Revolution has your back. The club has put together a wealth of curriculum to help you understand the game better, down to individual position guides. For parents of Revo kids, those position guides are absolutely invaluable. Each comes with a description of why the position is important, a general understanding of the parts of the field the position is expected to cover (including diagrams), a list of required/desired skills, video analyses of the position, and highlight reels of famous professionals who play that position.
These guides are great for the kids, especially in helping them visualize professionals who play the same position they play, but they're sneaky great for parents as well! They can help you understand where your kids are supposed to be when they're on the field and how they can prepare to be more effective in that position. As you understand the positions and Revo expectations for those positions, you can help your kids prepare for scrimmages and games and generally find greater success in their play.
The final way you might help your family become more of a "soccer family" is to get involved with the club. Few things provide better experience and perspective than being a part of something in real life, and volunteering with Revolution is no different. Set up goals and cones for scrimmages. Set up an off-day team shoot-around at a local park. Ask the coaches if you can help set up and tear down for practice. Heck, just ask them what you can do to help and leave it at that; sometimes they have a better sense for what the teams and club need.
Not everyone that volunteers will be a coach or team manager. Rather, volunteering can be a low-key thing that gives you a chance to be around your kids and their Revolution team while helping you understand more about the club and youth soccer.
As parents, our primary goal is to help shape our kids into successful young adults through youth soccer. Our secondary goal, we might say, is to build a shared family love of soccer. It might look slightly different for each of us, but hopefully these ideas give you a place a start!