Character development is at the foundation of Soccer Shots. In conjunction with soccer skills progressing through the mini, classic, premier, and elite curriculums, there is additionally an evolution of growth through character words. Being aware of cognitive and social/emotional variances, we as coaches tailor our conversations about respect, honesty, patience, etc. to particular ages.
For example, when discussing patience during a classic session of children aged three to four, I may verbalize that we have to be patient by waiting our turn to be goalkeeper. On the contrary, to a premier session of children aged five to six, I would build off of that infrastructure by discussing a different form of patience, a patience in becoming better at soccer. In said situation, I would try to elicit whether players are going to become significantly better at soccer after one practice. There is generally a resounding and emphatic response that it takes time to improve greatly, and it is tremendously rewarding as a coach to experience that conceptual understanding.
With respect to determination and perseverance, our short phrase definitions are “keep trying” and “never give up”.
Similar to the ideology of patience, my goal in a dialogue about determination and perseverance is to focus on continuation. Below are some strategies of how I make the abstract more tangible:
(1) After juggling the soccer ball briefly, I create an exchange where the children tell me how old they are and how many soccer juggles they can do. Then, I relate to them by expressing that I could only do one or two juggles at that same age, but soon enough I could do three and eventually eight! After hearing some entertaining answers regarding my current age, I explain and demonstrate that I can literally do thousands of juggles. I conclude by confirming to them that although they are only five or six years old, by age ten, I am positive that they will be able to do one hundred juggles. My experience is that the children gain a sense of motivation and the knowledge to keep going and keep trying.
(2) Coach: In school, do you have to use your memory?
Children: Yes, to learn!
Coach: Well, I am going to teach you a trick. Your muscles have memory too! If you practice your soccer skills only once, do you think your muscles will remember how to do them?
Children: No, we have to practice them a lot!
I love the above approach, for it is an introduction to muscle memory, and it serves as a correlation to school which I think is valuable. Staying determined and persevering is applicable outside of soccer including at home, school, and other activities such as music. The muscle memory theory is also helpful when I need assistance explaining the purpose of practicing a soccer move that is already known, or “easy”.
Pardon my tangential divergence, but please note that part of the definitions “keep going” and “keep trying” feature on effort rather than a result which is consistent with what I have garnered from Early Childhood Education courses learning about process praise. In summary, I learned that instead of saying, “good job”, I should state, “I like how you are using rhythmic touches to keep strong control of the soccer ball”. As such, more intrinsic value from the child’s perspective can be obtained.
To retreat from the digression, determination and perseverance are sometimes idealistic opportunities to provide challenges because the philosophical transcends to the practical. Encountering difficulties and struggling to achieve mastery are moments where The Children’s Soccer Experience comes to life. In those instances, listening and relating are paramount because adverse occasions can be frustrating. I say that as a player who personally challenges himself to acquire new soccer skills. Glossing over the phrase “never give up,” can be all too simple.
True empathy must come from some semblance of a parallel situation. It must come from relating and recognizing that a highly competent learner who is still developing cognitively, emotionally, and in terms of gross motor skills is struggling. And if I live up to my responsibility as a coach, then that competent learner keeps going, keeps trying, and ultimately never gives up regardless of obstacles.
In reflection, perhaps I challenge myself in part because of the inspiration I receive from coaching, and certainly, I always end up learning more than I teach. I have the most fantastic reminders that playing soccer is fun. I learn that we really should never give up. We should keep trying. We should keep going.
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” -Vincent Van Gogh
In addition to being the Program Director for Soccer Shots, I am a mom to a rambunctious and amazing two year old. I care deeply and passionately about the program, so I often spend time outside of the office thinking about work.
As February rolled around this year, a time where love is everywhere, I began to reflect on my relationship with my daughter. Do I show the same passion at home? Does she feel loved?
It’s no secret that being a working parent is a balancing act. So here I am, sharing my story, as well as my challenge to myself, and to you, if you accept. For the rest of the month, I am going to make a conscious effort to ensure that I have quality time with my daughter. Notice I didn’t say more time with her; I know that would be hard.
I’m committing to putting my phone away when I get home from work, and leaving it there until she goes to bed.
To engaging in conversations (those limited by two year old vocabulary) when we’re in the car on the way home from school.
To enjoying the time we spend walking the dog together, instead of rushing.
I want to play with her and the toy kitchen she got during the holidays, the train track too. I’m not sure we’ve fully enjoyed those experiences together yet, and the toys have been strewn around my house for a month and a half now!
Why, you might ask. And why did I make the distinction that this isn’t a challenge of increasing the quantity of time spent together?
Quantity vs. Quality: Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (Milkie, 2014) shows that there is actually no relationship between the amount of time parent’s spend with their children and how they turn out. These findings include children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being.
Now this doesn’t mean time with parents isn’t important. The important factor here, that does lead to positive outcomes, is that the time spent is quality time – such as reaching, sharing meals, talking and engaging one-on-one.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I know what the research says, and still there are days when it all goes out the window in our house. But we try, and as long as we’re asking that of ourselves, we’re in a good place. So here’s to more conversations, more peaceful walks, and more play time with each other. What are your favorite quality time activities?
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?”
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.
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.