(Guest Post by Lead Coach Matt)
This seems obvious. After all it’s the first rule of Soccer Shots. But it’s amazing how much truly having fun with my classes can change everything. First and foremost the kids will always respond and feed off of my energy. So if I’m genuinely and truly having fun with a class then they feel that and can’t help but have the time of their lives.
By having fun with my classes I know I’m truly present. I’m engaged in each moment and listening and observing my kids closely.
In my free time I do improv comedy and in improv, when you’re not sure what to do with a scene we’re always told to “follow the fun.” The same can always apply to my soccer classes. If a kid gets distracted by an airplane flying overhead my instinct is to stop them and redirect them back to whatever I’m trying to teach. But let’s face it, airplanes are AWESOME! They’re a marvel of science and technology. I’m a grown man and I still can’t fully comprehend how a giant metal bird can take off from the ground, maintain flight and hurtle through the air at hundreds of miles and hour then land relatively gracefully back on the ground. So there’s no reason a child shouldn’t stop what they’re doing whenever they see one, point and shout, “AIRPLANE!” If I’m having fun with my class I’m going to embrace that moment and say “Let’s all be airplanes!” and run around the field with our arms outstretched before I steer the kids back to focusing on our lesson.
Perhaps most importantly for me, play leads to creativity. By playing with the kids and following what they naturally find fun I’m constantly discovering new games to add to the Soccer Shots repertoire. The most recent of which is my new game Marching Band. In this game we take a break from soccer to have some fun and make some noise. I let the boys and girls choose an instrument; either a drum (a soccer ball), a pair of cymbals (two flat cones), or a horn (a tall cone). This introduces the concept of choice to the children (which is especially great for the 2 year olds). It can take the craziest or laziest of classes and really get them engaged. It started when some kids in Coach Alyssa’s class began using two flat cones as “clappers” to cheer on their teammates while doing one on ones. I took that concept and ran with it. Already my kids are following the fun with this game and taking it to the next level. I’ve already had children beat a “drum” with a “cymbal” and even had a 2 year old delight me with his air guitar skills on a tall cone.
Whether you’re an educator, a parent, or a caregiver I urge you to try to take the time to leave your grown up stressors and inhibitions at the door when you spend time with your kids. It can be tough for an adult to play on the level of a toddler especially when other people are watching or when you’re overworked or you’ve under slept. Do your best though. Make a real effort to dive right in and be fully engaged and I guarantee that by truly having fun with your children you will reach a new level of connectedness with them and open new doors of creativity, learning, and love.