Life Lessons from Soccer: What Your Child Can Learn On and Off the Field-A Guide for Parents and Coaches

Life Lessons from Soccer: What Your Child Can Learn On and Off the Field-A Guide for Parents and Coaches

by Vincent Fortanasce


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743205757
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 09/18/2001
Edition description: Original
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Vincent Fortanasce, MD, a nationally acclaimed psychiatrist, neurologist, and bioethicist, practices at Los Angeles County Hospital, USC. A former Olympic athlete and an experienced soccer and Little League coach, he lives in Pasadena, California.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Dreams

The 1st Life Lesson:

A Child Without a Dream Is Like a Boat Without a Sail

Seven-year-old Kathy beamed a smile that could have brightened the rainiest of days. "Mom, Mom!" she cried out excitedly. Her mother was pouring milk into a mug with a picture of Madonna on the side. "What is it?" she asked.

"I know what I want to be when I grow up! I want to be like Mia Hamm!"

Her mother sighed. "She's not another rock star, is she?"

"No, Mom, she's the greatest soccer player ever! I'm gonna be like her, you watch." Her words were spoken with the absolute certainty that only fantasy-laden children can muster. "Can I get a soccer ball and a poster of her maybe? I'll clean my room and vacuum forever. I promise, I promise."

Kathy's mom, a corporate lawyer, sighed again and, in the same tone a jury foreman might use to declare a defendant guilty, said, "No. Stop filling your head with childish dreams. You've never even played soccer before, how can you be the greatest player? Eat breakfast, finish your homework, and get ready for school." Suddenly a chill wind swept the sunshine from Kathy's face and clouds covered the twinkle in her eyes. "Don't you realize it's only study and hard work that will help you make something of your life? It's a degree you need, not a poster!"

With a few simple words, both Kathy and her dream had been crushed.


Dreams are an inspiration to children. Yes, they are childhood dreams — to be a professional soccer player, a firefighter, a rock star, or an actress — but children see these people on TV and it's exciting to them. It's what they talk about at school. Most important, dreams provide motivation, purpose, and direction for a child, no matter how unlikely the dreams are. Nurture the dreams and they will bring spirit, determination, and pleasure to your child. After all, success ultimately is determined by the joy in life.

Those childhood dreams will change with age, just as eight-year-old boys hate girls and then grow to love them at eighteen.

Today's Dream May Be Tomorrow's Reality

Sam wanted to be a soccer player like the great Brazilian player Pelé. But Sam was the smallest in his class, slow, and not very skillful with a soccer ball.

However, his parents never wavered. They brought him to every North American Soccer League game, especially when the New York Cosmos and Pelé were playing. They helped Sam pin a giant poster of Pelé on his bedroom wall and Sam worked hard to play as well as he could.

Ten years later, Sam's dream changed. He wanted to be a doctor. He went after that dream with the same zeal that he had pursued his dream of being a soccer player. He graduated medical school near the top of his class. His parents taught him as a child to follow his dream. They thought he could do whatever he set his mind to do. And, as a result, so did Sam.

Too many parents stamp out childhood dreams with adult realities. In doing so they stamp out a child's hope and motivation, they quash the sunshine and starry-eyed fantasies that make childhood so special.

We Don't Remember Days, Only Moments

I can still remember the moment one cloudy Saturday morning when my dad asked me to fetch the mower from the garage to cut the lawn. You might ask why this is such a memorable moment. Well, it was my tenth birthday and it appeared that my parents had forgotten. I dutifully trudged to the garage and pulled open the door. I moved some boxes and a bike out of the way and finally uncovered the mower. My parents stood behind me, staring in disbelief as I slowly pushed it out. My dad cleared his throat. "Hey, Vin." I looked up at him, feeling very sorry for myself. I couldn't believe they'd forgotten my birthday. He smiled at my mom, then patted me on the head. "How are you going to win the Tour de France?" I frowned, then followed his gaze over to the bike. It was a gleaming ten-speed racer. My birthday present! I hadn't even noticed it. In a flash I was a bundle of excitement, my head filled with images of winning the bicycle race of bicycle races, the Tour de France. I carried this dream with me for a long time. I never raced in the Tour, of course, only with the other kids on my block, but I still remember the moment my parents ignited my childhood dream. They believed in me.

From the Doctor's Desk

Several studies have shown that parents who nurture childhood dreams have children who are happier and have a greater sense of control over their destiny.

Talent, character, and a good sense of right and wrong are important. However, without a dream, without hope and motivation, a child is like a ship on dry land.

If your child has no direction, no hero, no dream, what do you do?

  1. Look at yourself, and ask what is your dream? If the answer is, "I don't have one," that may be the problem. Get a dream, let your child have dreams.
  2. If you feel that you are nurturing your child's dream, but your child seems to lack enthusiasm, ask yourself, "Is it my dream, or my child's?"
  3. Inspire your child. After all, a good parent is an example, a great parent is an inspiration. Be an inspiration, a parent who nurtures dreams and hope.

Copyright © 2001 by Vincent Fortanasce, M.D.

Table of Contents



1 Dreams

2 The Game


3 Communication

4 The Present

5 Attitude

6 Acceptance


7 Expectations

8 Emotional Intelligence

9 Development

10 Attention


11 Success

12 Character Versus Talent

13 Character: The What

14 Character: The How

15 Rules Versus Spirit

16 Conscience


17 Harmony

18 Cheering

19 The Cell Phone Invaders

20 Violence


21 Parent Power

22 Parental Consistency

23 Virtual Insanity: Sports' Greatest Enemy

24 Joining In

25 The Family Value


26 The Coach

27 The Mother of All Meetings

28 The Coach's Letter

29 The Marathon

30 How to Find the Right Coach

31 The Last Life Lesson


32 The Rules That Protect the Spirit of Soccer





Soccer, like music and art, is one of those precious gifts that gives value to life.

Life Lessons from Soccer is about the complex relationships among parents, coaches, and children on the soccer field. Its focus is one of a child's first treks through life, one guided principally by parents. It's about the true goals of soccer: the development of perseverance, courage, and character. It is about changing parents' and coaches' concepts that a child is born a winner or a loser, intelligent or stupid, agile or awkward.

The great soccer player Pelé once said, "School is for the child. But soccer is for the family and child." The soccer field is the family's field of opportunity. It bestows an opportunity to learn the life lessons of:

1. Support 2. Friendship 3. Competition 4. Victory 5. Defeat 6. Care, courage, and character 7. The exceptional bond between parent and child and community 8. Presence, attitude, acceptance, and communication 9. Love

Life Lessons from Soccer includes true stories, some humorous, some sobering. The names used are fictitious and often used to illustrate the point and focus: Mr. Excuski, Mrs. Bigwig, Mr. Sherman, and Hank "the Horrible," to name a few. Sometimes I have combined scenarios, for the sake of being concise, but I hope that each story will enhance your understanding of your child and your unique relationship with him or her.

Experience gives you life's consequences, then teaches you the lesson. Life Lessons from Soccer is written so you can learn from the experiences of my life as a dad, coach, and physician.

Copyright © 2001 by Vincent Fortanasce, M.D.

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