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.