Interview With Kelly Gray
For kids who feel pressured by parents or others, youth sports can feel like a job they don’t enjoy.
That’s the word from Kelly Gray, a former professional soccer player who has worked with youth sports organizations for many years. He’s founder of Kelly Gray Sports and South Bay Football Club.
“The main mental game challenge is when sports is turned into a job instead of a fun activity,” he says.
Sports are supposed to be fun, and parents get too distracted by the end goal of success. This can create anxiety and confidence issues in players.
“This has a tremendously negative effect on the growth of players, and creates a culture of fear.. Players become too scared to show their personality; They become afraid of making mistakes,” says Gray.
It’s more important for parents and coaches to focus on kids’ effort and passion, instead of the score or the win. This gives players the confidence to try new things and grow, he says.
That’s the goal of the South Bay Football Club, the soccer club Gray and his wife created.
As a result of the club’s focus on fun, players are spending more time playing soccer, especially pickup soccer.
“It’s completely unstructured pickup soccer, they pick sides and split up the team. I love that. That’s where a huge part of growth comes from, the motivation to want to be playing,” he says.
The club’s goal is to have fun and create a culture that sparks confidence in kids through sports, he says.