(Guest Post by Lead Coach Matthew)
At Soccer Shots, we pride ourselves on being a positive introduction to organized sports, as well as a supportive, engaging, and FUN environment in which to learn. But we have to set boundaries too. With sometimes upwards of 50 children in the park at a time, we have to be careful to keep our groups engaged, a little “crazy” having fun, but also “under control.”
If you were to sit on the side of a field, and listen, I mean really listen to the words our coaches use, you might realize they choose their words carefully, and with purpose. Sure, some of it’s meant to engage, and generate buy in from the kids, but other times it’s more than that. Here are three things you’ll probably hear when our coaches might (or might not) give a child an “option” to do something (and why).
1. “It’s okay if you don’t want to join in right now, I’ll come back and check in with you in ….. hmm, how many minutes do you think I should wait before coming back?”
We’ve all had that time, even as adults, where we were unsure, not ready, and we needed a little time before we jumped head first into something new. When children are new to Soccer Shots, shy, or a little unsure, we don’t force them to join in. We give them the option of taking their time. Engaging them in the process by asking “how many minutes should I give you…?” allows them to have their space, but also be a part of the plan to join in later on.
It’s so important to come back, check in again, and show them that you can be trusted. I can’t count how many times this has worked for me in getting a child to engage. This, of course though, is dependent upon having the time to wait.
This is one of the most common pieces of feedback, I give our coaches when I am in the field observing our classes. Phrase the desired behavior as a fun command, versus a request. When you ask a group if they “can” do something, inevitably you’ll have one child that thinks… “hmmm. I can…. but not now,” or “I’m not sure I can,” and even just, “no, I can’t.” Set your children, and your self up for success, try to get them excited to do what you’re asking, especially if it’s non-negotiable.
3. “I can help you move out of the goal, or you can move yourself, this is not safe for your body.” Which sometimes turns into, “I am going to have to help you move by helping you get up, ready? One… Two… Three…”
SAFETY. Always important. We try to make this an option at first, as a sign of respect to the child we are working with, but sometimes it becomes necessary to intervene for the child’s safety. You’ll notice though, that even in intervening, we are still letting the child know what is coming, and to some degree still giving them a chance to take ownership and do what is needed on their own.
This week we will be discussing the inside and the outside Chop Move.
This is another move that teaches our children how to change direction quickly and effectively. We teach the kids this move by practicing dribbling one direction, and then “chopping” the ball back the other way. This is done with either the inside, or in future weeks, the outside of the foot, by placing it in front of the ball and using the inside/outside of the foot to chop back the other direction.
This move works really well in the Race Car game that we play. We use the same lights as in Red light, Green Light, only this time, when we say “crash” or “orange light”, it’s time to do a soccer shots move. Soccer players then do the chop move and go in the other direction on the race track. This shows young players how to change directions quickly, and they get to play race cars which tends to be a favorite game for many kids!
This week is all about sharing the ball, which in soccer is called passing. This is a great skill for kids to learn especially at an age when it can be hard for them to understand sharing.
We teach this with team building games because passing utilizes teamwork. There is a game we play called blob tag, which calls for the children to run around and once they get tagged they must join hands and make one big chain which looks like a “blob”. This game is great, but depending on the size of the group it may be easier to play a different version of the game, such as freeze tag. Either game teaches the children the need to work together to accomplish a goal.
When we teach passing and trapping, we show the students that we want to use the inside of their foot when they kick or trap the ball. Now of course this may take a few times to learn but the most important thing is that they are kicking the ball to a friend and that they are sharing. This skill isn’t easy to learn and is such an accomplishment when they do, because at this age sharing can be hard. As coaches we celebrate everything the kids do but seeing the kids passing, especially during scrimmage, really is remarkable.
I had coached the same general group of kids for a few seasons. They all knew each other well and knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This season, we had a new kid join in who had clearly played soccer before. “Andrea” wasn’t exceptionally better than any of the other kids but she could give any of them a run for their money. All the kids in the class still got along great until a few weeks into the season…
“John” and “Andrew” were best friends and pretty much the two “best” soccer players in the class. To make things fair for everyone else, I usually put them on opposite teams when it came to scrimmage. They always competed well against each other and never had a problem with the other one winning. It was sportsmanship at its finest as far as I could tell. However, a few weeks into the new season John and Andrew got paired up on the same team going up against Andrea. It was all fun, until I blew the whistle and John and Andrew’s team had lost, a lot to nothing. Of course I wasn’t keeping strict score for either team but they were a competitive group of kids and always kept pretty good track of the score on their own. After the game, Andrew handed me his jersey with the rest of the kids and was just as happy as usual. John, on the other hand, I was surprised to see still had the jersey on well after the game was over.
I walked up to him as the other kids were collecting the cones and saw tears welling up in his eyes. “John, what’s wrong” I asked, thinking maybe he got hurt and I had missed it. He took a second before he looked up and yelled, “it’s not fair! We lost! I didn’t get a turn.” I was a little confused because he had lost plenty of times in the many season’s he’d been playing. “It’s okay,” I reassured him, “we’ll still play next week and I’m sure you’ll score lots of goals then. “No it’s not fair, I don’t want to play anymore.”
I couldn’t understand why this time was so different. I tried to reassure him some more but he wasn’t having any of it. Fast-forward to the next week and John was ready to play soccer again. He had largely forgotten about the incident it appeared and was ready to play. That was, until the scrimmage was over, and neither team had scored a goal. Again, after the scrimmage, John was distraught that he hadn’t won. I asked him again what was wrong and again he told me he lost and that it wasn’t fair.
I was still confused about what made this time any different than the other times he had lost but I was prepared. “But you tied” I told him. “It’s not fair” he said insistently. This time I was ready though. “Why isn’t it fair John?” I was starting to think there wasn’t an actual reason. “Because we lost” he said keeping his reasoning in a circle. “But what if you had won, then the other team loses then is it not fair to them?” I asked him. “But I don’t want them to win.”
Finally we got to the root of the problem. John was fine with losing before because it usually meant that Andrew won. They were best friends and hugged and high-fived and were happy win or lose. But when John was on Andrew’s team and they both lost, Andrew saw no reason he should be happy the other team won. It took another week for John to really understand that it was okay to lose. I had to stress that he was still having fun and just as importantly, so were the kids on the other team.
The concept of winning and losing is hard to get across to kids. The best way I’ve found to do it, is to first really understand what their underlying meaning of winning and losing for them is. Some kids really want to win, some really don’t want to lose, some have learned that winning is good and some just have an inherent drive. It may be a cliché to say that every kids is unique but it’s true, every situation is different. The most important thing though, is to make sure the kid learns for themselves that winning and losing are both okay. It isn’t as easy as telling them. They have to experience it both ways. The thing you can do, is explain to them the best you can so that when they do win or lose, they make the choice for themselves to be a gracious winner and a gracious loser.
The Step Over Move teaches kids how to get around another player and keep the ball.
This move can be taught in many different ways but the main idea of this move is to keep the ball away from the opponent. We teach this move because it is important to know how to navigate the field and keep the ball in your possession. The Step Over Move is essentially faking one direction while stepping over the ball and then going in a different direction. Whether you turn around or just veer to the side depends on the situation.
One fun way they to practice this new move is during Red Light, Green Light. This game can be played differently by different coaches; I like to give them “steering wheels” (colorful rings) and have the children pretend to be cars with their soccer ball being the car. Red Light means stop position, Yellow Light means “slow like a turtle”, and Green Light means “fast like a bunny”. This gives them an opportunity to practice their dribbling while also “driving” their car. Then… I say Orange Light, which I learned from another coach and use it as a Soccer Shots move light. When I say Orange Light they show me the Step-Over Move to change directions, that way we can practice it and still have fun!
Across the country Soccer Shots coaches positively impact girls and boys in all sorts of ways!
Through countless smiles, numerous high-fives, encouraging words, patient instruction, and caring acts our coaches make a difference in the lives of children.
Watch this short video and meet one such coach – Coach Chris. While Chris doesn’t coach for Soccer Shots Los Angeles, his story, passion, and dedication to making an impact is incredibly similar to all of the coaches on our team.
With no school, and no soccer, we know winter break can get a little crazy. Kids bouncing off the walls, and parents wondering what to do next… Here are a few ideas we thought of to keep everyone busy!
1. Make a plan ahead of time. Figure out activities and places to go, so you don’t have to figure it out last minute.
2. If possible, stick to your usual routine. This will help your child know what to expect and when, as well as help with transition back to the norm, after the holidays.
3. Head to a movie, or check out a local museum. We love the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, or the Zimmer Children’s Museum in Mid-City/Miracle Mile. There’s also a new Discovery Cube (opened by Discovery Science Foundation) in Sylmar!
4. Visit a local park and practice those Soccer Shots moves and games!
5. Find a new favorite book at the local library or bookstore. Have you read “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak? It’s quickly become one of our favorites!
6. Have FUN! Spend time together just playing, follow your child’s lead. Build a fort out of couch cushions, or put on a play; let your imaginations take over.
(Guest Post by Lead Coach Kim)
This week we will be talking about shooting. Shooting is an essential part of soccer because, as we all know, the only way to get points in soccer is by shooting the ball into the goal. Its important that we show our kids how to do this while not putting so much emphasis on winning or losing.
An easy way that we can show our kids how to shoot the soccer ball is by setting it up on a cone. It gives the children an easier way of delivering a powerful kick. We show them to use the top part of their foot in what we call a power kick, with their “laces” or “velcro.” It is easy for soccer players to understand where we want them to kick when we associate it with something they know.
This week we also play an astronaut and alien game where the kids are astronauts and have to shoot their lasers or rockets ships (soccer balls) into the stars and planets (cones) so they can “visit” them. During the game, coaches are silly aliens who have the power to pick the planets (cones) up while encouraging soccer players to try to be faster than the alien and knock them back down again. They love this game and it really helps to emphasize the shooting technique.
For goal scoring when practicing shooting, we play Duck, Duck, Shoot, a play on the popular game Duck, Duck, Goose. First coaches pick the first child to shoot and then the kids get involved and pick a friend to go next. This emphasizes teamwork and they get to practice shooting one more time.
This fall I have worked with two children, at two different schools, that reminded me once again why I LOVE Soccer Shots, why we do what we do, and why we take the approach that we take.
The first child, has played several seasons of Soccer Shots, starting over a year ago, in my class. He was a child that I knew when I met him, would benefit from Soccer Shots. Each week before soccer we talked about having safe, calm bodies, using listening ears, and playing all the games. In a few short weeks, this child fell in love with soccer. We run 4 classes at his school, and each time we walk by his classroom, he excitedly asks if it’s his turn yet. Not every child needs the reminders that this child needs before class, and not every coach would have suggested this child join their class of 10 other kids, on black top. Some coaches, in some other programs, wouldn’t have seen what I saw in this child. Through the imminent added challenge, I saw promise, I saw potential. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I took him into my class without hesitation. I visited this school recently, and this child greeted me with a gigantic hug. During soccer, he reminded me again how unique each child we work with truly is. And how important it is to meet them where they are, and give them every opportunity to succeed, on their own terms. They deserve that. He stopped mid-dribble while I was watching his class, and proclaimed… “A PUDDLE! Coach Alyssa, I just need a second to explore this puddle real quick…”
Some coaches, in some other programs, would have denied him the opportunity to lay down, close one eye, and really check out that puddle. I knew, if he didn’t get that opportunity, it was probably going to affect his ability to engage in the rest of class. So… we did. We explored the puddle for a little while, and then he went right back to dribbling…
The second child, started her first season of Soccer Shots this fall, and met me on day one, with eyes full of tears. She was shy, hesitant, and reluctant to try something new. Instead of forcing her out of her comfort zone, I let her sit on the side of soccer island to observe our class. By the end of week one’s class, she was trying stop position, on her own, on the sideline. When I acknowledged her success, she was again hesitant to respond. Week two was similar, with some progress. By week three, she was dribbling and doing pull back moves on the sideline, and joining us for a game or two. I never forced her to join, but would occasionally ask her if she wanted to try what we were doing. Most often she declined, but she watched and took in EVERYTHING we were doing.
By week five, there were no tears when myself and the other coach arrived… and she played the entire class with us! She even asked me if she could have a turn playing in the scrimmage! This felt like a huge accomplishment, since scrimmage can be one of the most intimidating parts of class. One ball, 3 or 4 kids on each team, running full speed at each other… But she did it, without hesitation!
We could have suggested this child wasn’t ready for soccer, or that she try again next season… But we didn’t. We gave her the time and space she needed, to join us, on her own terms.
For me, and for many kids, THIS is exactly what Soccer Shots is about. It’s about development. It’s about potential. It’s about small successes. It’s about respecting each child, and giving them the opportunity they need. Soccer Shots also happens to be about soccer and skill building, but for me, and for many kids, that comes second to the skills built when given time and space to develop and grow on their own terms.