Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)

AlyssaM CoachCard Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC, Director, Program + Community Advancement

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.

2. “Let’s all do a stop position!” vs. “Can we do a stop position?” Screen Shot 2015 03 26 at 3.36.54 PM Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)

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.

Chop Move!

KimZ CoachCard Chop Move!(Guest Post by Lead Coach Kim)

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!

Passing and Trapping!

KimZ CoachCard Passing and Trapping!(Guest Post by Lead Coach Kim)

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.