The Difference That a Really, Really, Really Good Coach Can Make

(Guest post from Nicole Cody, Owner, Soccer Shots of Greater St. Charles)

NicoleCody 300x200 The Difference That a Really, Really, Really Good Coach Can Make

Our oldest son, Micah, has played team sports since he was 4 (he is almost 8 now). He started with soccer, and added basketball about a year ago. Over the last four years, I have spent many (many) hours as the model soccer mom, on the sidelines cheering him on…

“Micah, please pay attention to the game and stop hanging like Spiderman in the net.”

“Son, you should apologize to him for that slide tackle.”

“Honey, it’s OK to pass the ball to your teammate once in awhile.”

“You. Are. On. The. SAME. TEAM!!!!!!!”

“Goooooooooaaaaaaaaallllllllllllll!” (which, one week, was quickly followed by “is it really necessary to celebrate your goal by pretending to make a snow angel in the middle of the field????”)

This past weekend, he played in his first basketball game of the season, and my view from the sideline allowed me to see – and appreciate – the difference that a really, really, really good coach can make.

Micah was placed on a recreational co-ed basketball team with Coach Julio. I’ve seen a lot of coaches over the last four years, but I have not experienced a coach like Coach Julio. I knew he was special at the first practice, when he said, “I’m going to be loud, but you’ll hear me being loud to encourage and teach the kids.” True story – he is loud but encouraging… Maybe one of the most encouraging coaches I’ve ever seen. He has been able to connect with my son in a way that not many other coaches have before… he is a very patient teacher with a rowdy group of second-grade boys. During this game, I found myself paying more attention to how consumed he was at making sure the boys were having fun and learning. The ref called everything – traveling, double dribble, you name it – and I’m pretty sure there were four baskets scored during the entire (hour-long) game. No one kept score (that I could tell), not even the coach or the players, and for my ultra-competitive little guy, that was a miracle in and of itself. And even though the whistle kept blowing, Coach Julio never lost his patience and never stopped encouraging the boys. He clapped, he cheered, and he gave high fives like they were going out of style.

He consistently and repeatedly communicated with my son in a way that he could understand and connect with. He was constantly getting to Micah’s level – making eye contact and showing that he was engaged and in it with them.

He knew all their names… even after only a couple hours with them. And then, today, when I checked my email, Coach Julio had taken headshots of each of the boys and made a poster with their picture and name so that they could all learn and remember their teammates’ names.

Did I mention that Coach Julio is a volunteer coach?

As a Soccer Shots owner, this experience struck me because at Soccer Shots, coaches are really important.

We look for people who will not only be dependable and patient, but will (more importantly) be encouraging with the children who play with us. We look for coaches who are able to make Soccer Shots the best 30 minutes of a child’s week. We hire coaches who believe that it’s more than just soccer – coaches who truly believe that they have the ability to leave a lasting impact on the youth that we serve through the game of soccer. We hire coaches who not only understand that this is the foundation of our program, but who also take their responsibilities as a role model to tiny, amazing little people very seriously.

To be honest, it’s not easy to find these types of coaches. It’s tempting to “settle” when faced with a very full schedule, a fast-approaching season, and a shortage of talented instructors.

As a parent, it is this kind of experience that I imagined for my child when I signed him up for sports in the first place. And it’s the kind of experience that only a really, really, really good coach can provide. Maybe he’ll stick with basketball… or soccer… or maybe he won’t. But either way, I guarantee that he will remember Coach Julio and think of him with a smile.

And I will too.


(Guest post from Coach Alyssa at Soccer Shots Los Angeles)

alyssa m 150x150 R E S P E C T

As I teach Week One curriculum to my soccer kids, I can’t help but hum “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” in my head a little bit each time. When I ask the kids to define respect, I get a myriad of answers, ranging from, “do what’s right” to “treat other people nicely”.

In the back of my head, I hear my own parents reminding me to treat other people the way I want to be treated.

This past week, I began a mini-season at a preschool in the San Fernando Valley, where other students have already been enrolled with another coach at a different time. The school and the students were warm, inviting, and welcomed me right away. As I gathered the students, and walked over to the field, a child and their parent approached me. The child was visibly upset and kept saying they didn’t want to play. Their parent explained that they had taken their iPhone from the child, as it was time to play soccer, but this had caused the young boy to get upset. I responded that it was quite alright, and we could give him some time to watch, calm down, and join in at his own pace. His parent even participated in the warm up with us, to show him that soccer would be much more fun than the iPhone. As the child watched his parent hop around, pretend to be a tree swaying in the wind, and run from sideline to sideline, the tears kept streaming down his face.

week 1 R E S P E C T

After warm up, the parent and I agreed that the child could sit by my equipment, while they went and sat somewhere else. We talked about control or stop position, and passed out soccer balls; I even made sure to give that boy his own ball to ponder joining us. As we played one of my favorite games, the “Body Part Game,” in which the kids have to stop the ball with various parts of their body, he began to smile. We stopped the ball with our noses, and our ears, and our elbows. Soon he was laughing with us as we all stopped the ball with our bottom!

Huddled together, I took this time to ask the kids if they knew anything about the word “Respect.”

Another child raised their hand, and said “treating other people nice.”

I commended this response, as oftentimes I get blank stares when I ask kids to explain the meaning of a character word. I then asked all the kids to repeat after me, “treating others the way you want to be treated” and “treating others the right way”. Next, I took
time explaining that in the next game we would all get a chance to score a goal, but we had to practice respect by watching our friends and cheering for them, so they would do the same for us.

I looked over to my equipment, where the child had been sitting, and now he was standing, almost ready to join us. I asked him if he wanted to join us, but he was still hesitant, so we started taking turns cheering and scoring goals. After every one had gone once, he spoke up, saying he’d like to go now. Of course we high fived and we all cheered for him as he dribbled down the field and scored a goal. We did this one more time each, as the group was relatively small, and this child got to and wanted to go first!

I gave each child a high five and thanked them for respecting their friend, letting him take his time to join us, and then making him feel welcome when he did join us.

It was a subtle, yet poignant reminder that we are all a little different, take our own time to warm up to things, and deserve to be respected for that! It just so happened that respect was also the character word of the day.

The kids even shared cones as they collected them at the end of practice, another great way of showing respect!

As I left that day, the boy shouted to me, “See you next week for soccer!” 🙂

Coach Alyssa
Soccer Shots Los Angeles

Sharing is Caring

(Guest post from Coach Matthew at Soccer Shots Los Angeles)

Character Word of the Day: Sharing

The class with “SHARING” as the character building word is one of my most rewarding as well as one of the most challenging. Many 3-5 year old children are at the stage where everything is “Mine”. To reinforce the concept of SHARING, I instituted two exercises back to back. I began with explaining the definitions of SHARING. In one instance, a child (who we will call “Danny”) who typically grabs for the white soccer ball and never gives it up, explains to my surprise that SHARING IS CARING. I initially wondered if this would actually translate into practice for this little boy.

Matthew 300x225 Sharing is Caring

That day, I started out with a Halloween game where I throw all the cones onto the field and tell them that all these colorful cones are treats and their job is to dribble to each cone, control the ball, and pick it up. The object is to pick up the most cones. When all the treats are collected we sit in a circle and count how many cones each child has. “Danny” happened to pick up the least amount of cones and was visibly upset. So I said to the group, “who wants to share”? Three children gave him cones! Then I had each child share a treat with another child. Of course after someone shared, the recipient had to say “thank you” and give a high five. We kept doing this until everyone was laughing and high fiving one another.

The next game was going to be the big test. This was the exercise called “Switch” where the children dribble, and when I whistle, everyone runs to another soccer ball because we all SHARE. “Danny” was a little hesitant in giving up his ball until we reminded him about our friends that shared their cones. After that reminder “Danny” enjoyed sharing with his friends because SHARING IS CARING! His Mom even reported that “Danny” shares better at home with his siblings.

Coach Matthew

R E S P E C T with Coach Alyssa

“Coaches are, first and foremost, teachers; they are among the most influential people in a young athlete’s life. Because coach’s are such powerful role models, young athletes learn more from them about character that about athletic performance.” – Unknown

In addition to teaching basic soccer skills, our newly designed curriculum places a high emphasis on character building and even offers a Character Word Of The Day. In this short clip Coach Alyssa demonstrates her creativity in reinforcing the “word of the day” as part of the team cheer at the end of the session.

The Difference 40 Minutes, One Day Per Week Can Make

(Guest post from Soccer Shots Franchising)

At Soccer Shots, it is part of our mission to impact youth in a positive way, but there are times when the depth of that impact is more profound than we could have hoped for. The following is a letter from a parent of Soccer Shots participants. We have changed only the names to protect the family’s anonymity but the rest is a copy/pasted letter that we wanted to share. Let it be a reminder to all who work with children that the time we spend (even if it’s only 40 minutes, one day a week) can be deeply meaningful.

40Minutes 300x198 The Difference 40 Minutes, One Day Per Week Can Make

Dear Coach Matt,

I wanted to take the time to write you an email, to thank you for all you do in running the Soccer Shots Program. Both of my boys, Jason, now 4, and Phil, age 3, have benefited from this program in more ways than you know. That is why I am writing you, to give a first-hand account on how your program is serving others.

To many families, signing up their child(ren) may be on a long list of to-dos, a part of “growing up”…a milestone. For my family, it was a way to bring joy to a life that was hanging on by a thread.

When I initially signed Jason up in the Fall of 2009, it was out of my strong desire to engage him in an activity that was positive and promoted teamwork, self-confidence, and encouragement. You wouldn’t have known this, but it was a very difficult time for the boys and me. At the time, we were living in a home with an active drug and alcohol addict–my husband (and their father.) As you can imagine, this made it very difficult to have a “normal” life and marriage, as life with an addict is very far from that. I was also praying that the soccer program would bring a positive male influence into my son’s life, even if it was only once a week.

Last Spring, you were one of those people. I appreciated your commitment to Jason, especially when you engaged him back “into” the activity and really worked with him, encouraging him to have fun and participate. Your effort was to be commended. You always gave him special attention, and he still talks about playing soccer, and his coach was “Coach Matt.”

This season, Phil was old enough to start the program. He has had Coach Brad, and again, what a wonderful experience it has been. Brad is just wonderful with the kids, and I have tried to thank him on several occasions, knowing that he really has no idea just HOW thankful I am. One particular moment sticks out.

Early in the season, Coach Brad called Phil, “Phil the Thrill” and the name stuck with him. I know to Brad, it may have been an off-hand comment, but to Phil, it meant the world. After all, his coach gave him a special name!

At night, when I tuck him in, sometimes he waits for me to say, “I love you–Phil the Thrill–my little soccer man!”

As a teacher, I have served so many families, and have had the pleasure of knowing their stories and sharing in their lives. I really feel God has gifted me in this way of serving others. Please know that I feel you have this gift, too, and THANK YOU for bringing together such an amazing team of people to do this work.

I think those of us in service positions don’t realize the magnitude of the work we’re doing at times, the lives we can be touching and not even know it, even through the game of soccer. The way we react to a child; an encouraging word, a happy disposition, a hug or high-five, even an off-hand “nickname” can go a long way in the life of a child.

So today, I want you to know how much you and Brad have meant to my boys, and for that I am forever grateful.


We hope this parent knows how much letters like this mean to everyone in Soccer Shots. This is why we do what we do.

Fun Soccer Games to Play at Home with your Preschoolers

(Guest post from Soccer Shots Franchising)

Soccer Shots is a youth soccer program for toddlers to elementary school children where we use soccer to teach more than just fundamentals of the game.

Our curriculum also works on character development such as teamwork, and appreciation plus physical development like coordination and motor skills.

We do this through fun, noncompetitive games that use imagination and creativity.

As a leader in the field of soccer for toddlers to 8-year-olds we know the importance of continuing children’s physical education at home and want to share a game that parents can do with their children. This at-home game will help your child not only learn to pass the ball with control but will also get them running around and having fun.

Passing is a basic skill that is simple to learn and practice. First step is to dig out a soccer ball (or one of similar size) and show your child that when passing, it is best to use the inside of your foot. Doing this allows for a straighter, more controlled pass. If you kick with your toe, there is less of a chance the ball goes where you intended because you have less control.

Now it’s game time! Here’s a simple exercise to help your child practice their passing: Tunnel Game.

The idea is to have your child properly pass the ball between your legs, or “the tunnel”. Once they pass it, it’s their job to run past you to retrieve their ball and do it again. You can vary the distance depending on your child’s ability and make sure they continue to use the inside of their foot. You may also try using the other foot too, that way they start learning to use both feet.

Take turns with your child so you can be the passer too.

Spending time playing with your child is quality time that is more meaningful and profound than you may think. Beyond bonding, you will be instilling the importance of an active lifestyle plus, we bet you’ll have fun too!

Video: Soccer Shots Spaceship Game

(Guest post from Soccer Shots Franchising)

We believe that soccer, the world’s greatest game, can be introduced in really creative and exciting ways to kids ages 3-8.

Kids who play soccer are exposed to great fitness habits like running, character forming lessons such as teamwork and tons of fun.

We teach the beautiful game by mixing skills with games, so kids have a great time every week at their park, club or preschool soccer class.

Soccer Shots offers a variety of games that give kids a chance to show off what they’re learning. The “Shooting Stars” game allows kids to demonstrate their new-found knowledge of dribbling, control, and shooting. Their mission is to dribble around the area, control their ball next to a cone, and knock it over by shooting the ball. To make the kids focus even more on their dribbling and control, the instructors will act as aliens to try and defend the cones, forcing the kids to try and avoid obstacles in order to knock down all the cones.

Playing soccer based games with kids is a great way to let kids be creative, use their imagination, and have fun as they pretend to be spaceships shooting soccer balls at asteroids and aliens in outer space. If you want to do this in your own backyard, cones can be found at your nearest sports store. They’re inexpensive and a worthwhile investment as you help your child enjoy soccer, the world’s greatest game!

“It Takes A Village”

(Guest post from Coach Matthew at Soccer Shots Los Angeles)

One little girl spent an entire season sitting on the sidelines. In fact, she would complain of being too tired to play and ended up lying down most of the class. I had a meeting with her teacher and discovered this behavior occurred in class as well.

Matthew 300x225 It Takes A Village

Along with the Director of the school, we spoke to the parent as to our concerns of her daughter’s well-being. We suggested that she first have her daughter checked out by her doctor.

After finding out that she had no physical issues, we all encouraged the mother to enroll her daughter the following season of Soccer Shots.

At this time, I told her mother not to push too hard because children, with a little encouragement and patience, have a way of turning things around in their own time frame.

I reinforced that children learn and engage differently and this is not a reflection of her parenting. I remained very patient and gave her the space that she needed while continuing to offer encouragement.

This little girl ended up being the first to volunteer in every class. She was fully engaged and we could not get her off the soccer field after class ended.

All that was needed was patience, a little time and encouragement from a team that cared deeply about this child.

Coach Matthew, SSLA

Got (Soccer) Skills?

Don’t let all the fun and games fool you, no matter how much your kids love Soccer Shots and entertain you with tales of all the fun games we play, Soccer Shots is also a SKILLS program!  Studies have shown that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!  And, 9 out of 10 singing nannies recommend it during all household chores for children 3 years and up!

CookieMonster 300x225 Got (Soccer) Skills?

But seriously, we all learn better and retain more when we are enjoying the activity.  We also retain more when doing vs. just being lectured or reading about something.  Learn while you laugh! 

Keeping this premise in mind, Soccer Shots has created non-competitive games that incorporate ball skills, imagination and FUN!

Our kids are astronauts one day and superheroes the next, shuttling their precious cargo from planet to planet protecting it from asteroids or the cookie monster!  Sometimes they are bears or tigers searching for food after a long sleepy winter.  They are encouraged to make up their own games and exercise their creativity as well.

What our Soccer Shots kids don’t know is that through it all they are learning to dribble, properly kick the ball, pull back, protect the ball with their bodies when they play keep away and also score goals.  They are learning teamwork and sharing the ball when they pass it one another.  Soccer Shots is their introduction to organized sports in a positive, fun filled environment.

As they grow older they will already be equipped with the skills necessary to participate in other soccer programs such as AYSO, city leagues, club soccer, etc.  They will be able to acclimate into more competitive programs with the skills they have “inadvertently” learned through Soccer Shots.

So as we enjoy the summer fun outdoors and all the activities it has to offer, keep in mind fall is just around the corner! Our fall season will be starting up sooner than you think at your local preschool or local community park.  And if you know any schools that would benefit from a program like this, please let us know!  We will come in and do a FREE demonstration for the children 3-5 years old and set up a fall season of soccer fun!

Visit our website for more information