“Help please…” and other hard conversations…

AlyssaM Help please... and other hard conversations...
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC
Director, Program & Community Advancement

As coaches at Soccer Shots, we spend countless hours a day, influencing young minds. We remind them to keep their bodies safe, to respect friends and toys, and to ask for help when they need it. In fact, when I am on the field, “I can’t do it…” is one of my least favorite things to hear, and I immediately respond with, ” let’s try one more time together,” or “you can say… I need help, please.” 

When I heard about Robin Williams’ passing yesterday, as an educator, and a counselor, I couldn’t help but think to myself… What happened? At what age does asking for help go out of style? What makes it so difficult to have hard conversations? How do we prevent these things from happening…? 

Some of my favorite characters crossed my mind a hundred times. Genie in Aladdin, Lovelace in Happy Feet, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Jack, Alan Parrish in Jumanji (even though I was terrified of that movie for quite some time), Professor Phillip Brainard in Flubber, Peter Pan in Hook, John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting… the list goes on and on.

Working with kids, we are consistently modeling the behavior we want to see from them. If we want them to dribble their soccer ball, we dribble with them. If we want them to sit criss-cross applesauce, we sit with them.

At age 3 and 4, a seemingly hard conversation might start with, “you have short hair, are you a boy or a girl?” Or, “that bug isn’t moving anymore, what happened to it?” But, as mentors, coaches, educators, friends, and parents, we have to have the hard conversations. We have to model this behavior too, so that at some point, kids (who become adults) don’t shy away from these conversations.

Here are some tips for having hard conversations with kids: 

1. Listen and acknowledge. Recognize feelings, and provide reassurance or comfort if needed.

2. Ask and answer questions without judgement. Find out what your child thinks or already knows. Try to stay openminded.

3. Be honest. Know yourself. Take time to think of a response if needed. Follow through, make a point to revisit the conversation if you say you need time.

4. Explain simply. Tailor your response to the child’s age and developmental level.

5. Keep the lines of communication open. Provide encouragement to come back and talk more if needed.


“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” – Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting

If you, or someone you know, needs help or even just someone to talk to, know that there are always options.

NSPL Logo Help please... and other hard conversations...

Happy New Year Updates for 2014

As we enter a new year (our 7th here in Los Angeles!) we are grateful for the thousands of families that participate in our program each year. We also realize that this could not be done without a dedicated and unique team of individuals who all share a common vision for Soccer Shots. I wanted to share a couple of important things that will be new to our organization in 2014.

Happy New Year 2014 1 1 Happy New Year Updates for 2014

1) Full Time Coaches. We have begun transitioning and will continue to do so in 2014 from part time coaches to primarily full time coaches. This is a big step for us and one that we feel truly makes us unique among other children’s enrichment programs. We believe this move will further improve the quality and reliability of our coaches and provide a program that in the end is an extremely high value for the families and schools that we serve.

2) Group Health Insurance. All eligible full time employees will have the opportunity to enroll in our group health insurance. The plan has been set up and as of today five members of our team are taking advantage of this benefit. By the end of the year I expect that we will have over ten employees participating in our group health insurance. We believe this will make for a healthier and happier team of directors and coaches! And as a company we feel really good about being able to offer this benefit.

In addition to these two updates there will be others as well throughout the year. All in an effort to improve on a program which is already loved and appreciated by more than 5,000 families and over 100 schools in Los Angeles each year.

Happy New Year!

We look forward to seeing you out on the field in 2014!

Motor Development Series [issue 2]

LeVon Motor Development Series [issue 2]

“Should my child really be trying to play soccer? They are only 2 years old you know”.

Yes I am sure as coaches we have probably heard this once or twice. Probably even thought this ourselves when teaching a 2 year old class that has gone slightly off course.

Lets look at what we are teaching 2 year old beyond the normal scope of regular motor development:

Soccer Shots Beyond Motor Development 460x310 Motor Development Series [issue 2]

At Soccer Shots we are helping each child expand the way they are using their bodies. Even though the 2 year old curriculum may seem slow and mundane to us, they are growing each time the child picks up their foot to kick the ball. Kicking is a manipulative skill that involves applying a pushing force to an object to propel it, while balancing the whole body to stay upright. Most children don’t even attempt this feat until age 3.

Things to watch out for and help with:
Repetitive falling
Easily becoming tired
Mental Frustration

As coaches, lets try to make sure these 2 year olds aren’t just having fun, but providing a well rounded class to help them advance into their bodies.

Coach LeVon
United States of America Track and Field (USATF); Level 1 Certified
AmercianSports Educational Program (ASEP); Track Certified
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); Certified Trainer (2008-2011)
United States Sports Academy (USSA ); Strength Certified

Valuable Life Skills Through Soccer!

(Post from SSLA Coach and Intern, Amanda)

The first Soccer Shots class I attended, I was completely blown away by the excitement of both the kids and coaches. It was such a great experience to see kids outside enjoying each other and having an amazing time kicking the ball around. When children are young, joining a soccer program might just seem like something fun to get them outside. Which is definitely true, but it is so much more.

People may not realize the excellent life lessons these children are learning from these simple 40 minutes classes. Not only are they learning how to play one of the world’s favorite sports, they are gaining social knowledge that will stay with them forever. Soccer is a sport that requires communication, teamwork, and positive attitudes.

Sounds a lot like every day life, right? Because these kids are young, being apart of a soccer team teaches them how to be social and make friends with the people around them, which will be very handy for when they are growing up. If they are able to learn how to be outgoing when they are in preschool or kindergarten, school and future life experiences will be much easier.

CookieMonster 300x225 Valuable Life Skills Through Soccer!

When I was watching the class, I noticed a little girl in the beginning who seemed shy and embarrassed to do the soccer drills. When I asked her if she was okay she replied quietly, “Yeah, but I don’t want to mess up.” Because the coaches had the other children encourage and cheer for everyone, it helped the little girl gain confidence, and she ended up having an great time and scored a goal! By the end, she was chanting the other kids names for them to score goals just as they did for her. As simple as this seems, the little girl was able to break out of her shell and make friends from that one experience. Soccer has really helped me in my life too. I started playing when I was just five years old and now I am nineteen and still loving it. All of my closest friends are my soccer teammates and we all push each other to do good in school and life.

For me, not only am I staying active, I have learned to be dedicated to everything I commit to, I am able to communicate with people very easy, and I also know how to listen to rules and follow them.

I am totally not the type of person that will go outside and run on my own, but I look forward to going to practice to be with my friends while being productive. My team (as are most teams) is required to have a certain grade point average, so that disciplines us all to make sure our school work is going good. I give soccer and my coaches a lot of the credit for who I am today.

I was so happy to see those kids playing because I know the experience they are getting. It is hard to understand how children this young can be affected so much from these classes but it will be very apparent when they are older. In my opinion, the three main qualities a person needs in life is, being social (communicate well), dedication, and having a good attitude. With those three attributes, a person is able to do well in school, make friends, and eventually get a job. Any parent worried about how their child will do in life, sign them up for soccer!!

Children are one-third of our population, and all of our future

(Guest post from Laura Kane, Director of Soccer Shots Company-Owned Units)

I stumbled upon this quote yesterday and I smiled because I am lucky enough to work for a company that impacts youth all over the world. After watching the terrible events that occur in the news, including the most recent tragedy in Chardon, OH, I can’t help but wonder what happened in this boy’s life that drove him to commit such an act. Did he not have a role model or a positive influence in his life? Was there one incident in this child’s life that shaped who he would become? Although we may never know, it is safe to assume that this could have been prevented.

smiley girl 300x200 Children are one third of our population, and all of our future

As a Soccer Shots Director, I receive a handful of emails each season from parents stating how much their child LOVES his/her coach. It puts a smile on my face because we take such pride in hiring a staff that we believe shares our mission to impact youth positively. Managing a group of 3-5 year olds can certainly be a challenge. But if that instructor is with us for the right reasons, they will undoubtedly make a difference in the life of a child.

“Children are one-third of our population, and all of our future.”

Kids are the future, and we must invest in them as we would a 401k. The time and energy that I have put into working for Soccer Shots has been rewarded tenfold. Every time I walk into a center and see the children’s faces light up to see someone wearing a Soccer Shots jacket, it makes it all worthwhile. Not only are those children eager to be physically active, they now have a positive role model in their life. Next time you have an opportunity to dish out a high-five and make a child smile, take it. You never know what that moment might mean in the life of that child.

Instilling Confidence in Kids: Early and Often

(Guest post from Carly Mondschean, Director of Soccer Shots Harrisburg, PA)

It may come as a shock for some of you who know me, but I have not always been a confident person. I went through the dreaded “preteen girl phase,” where I struggled to embrace my crooked teeth, oversized pink glasses and a haircut that was identical to my mother’s. When we got to the age where cheerleading was everything at our school, I was one of the few of my friends who opted to play what I called “real sports.”

In other words, I never felt that I fit in with that “pretty girl” crowd. And at the age of 12, fitting in is HUGE.

That sentiment persisted through high school and continued into my college years when I joined a sorority. Outward appearance and the latest styles (somehow, on a college budget) were important it seemed, to most everyone but me. I felt like I was constantly being forced to play “dress up.” Many of the friends I made were and are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside, but I can’t deny that the experience made me waste a lot of time and energy trying to be someone I was not.

20100713 confident kid 2 300x205 Instilling Confidence in Kids: Early and Often
Photo courtesy of http://static.oprah.com

Currently, I have two amazing opportunities to use sports and the lessons learned in these sports to leave a positive influence on children. As director of Soccer Shots Harrisburg/York, I teach mostly preschoolers. I wanted to reflect on the importance of instilling confidence in our kids because it’s the character trait we focused on at many of my sites in the past week. Rewarding a child’s every accomplishment is massively important at this age in order to increase a child’s confidence. With a curriculum that focuses on fun over competition, Soccer Shots instructors and parents are never without an opportunity to praise and reward the children whose little minds they are shaping.

I’ve read that at preschool age, it takes six positive reinforcements to erase every ONE negative statement. This is just how important it is for us as parents and coaches to encourage our kids constantly in these early years.

However, it can’t stop there. In my role as director of Capital Area Girls on the Run, I also work with girls who are primarily in grades 3 through 5. At that age, they still possess that innocence that allows them to laugh at me when I’m silly or celebrate an achievement without any self-doubt. However, in just a few years time, that could change if they are not given the tools they need to overcome a lack of confidence. Without self-esteem, or the ability to say, “I love who I am and I’m okay with the decisions I make,” the media messages, peer pressure and bullying young girls face have an enlarged negative impact. When a girl cannot accept herself, she is then more inclined to do anything to gain acceptance from her peers. That could mean engaging in risky behavior, substance abuse or development of an eating disorder. All a result, in huge part, of lacking the confidence to say, “That’s not who I am and I’m okay with choosing NOT to do that.”

confidence Instilling Confidence in Kids: Early and Often
Photo courtesy of http://www.soccerdrillstips.com

When I seriously took up running after grad school is when that confidence in myself, not just in my abilities, truly hit me. On a run, my mind is typically blank, save a few thoughts that pop in every few minutes. I can’t say the exact moment or location I realized it, but I remember thinking, “THIS is who I am and I love it! It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks.” Since that point, I can honestly say that I’ve had the confidence to try to live my life to impress no one but myself.

So why am I divulging all of this?

As parents and instructors, I believe it is our responsibility to create and encourage confidence-induced realizations like this for our kids each and every day.

Celebrating the scoring of a goal into an empty net from two feet away may seem trivial. Just keep in mind that the confidence it will give your child will erase any self-doubt that may come along with trying again, eliminate the fear of tackling a bigger goal and/or encourage them to celebrate their talents and achievements. All of which, evident now or not, have far-reaching implications for many years to come.

Improving Childhood Fitness Through Soccer

(Guest post from Carly at Soccer Shots Harrisburg)

All too often, I’m shocked when reminded of the current need to get kids off the couch. Whether it’s reading a news story about the government’s “Let’s Move!” campaign or hearing a “Play 60 a Day” ad, it’s hard to believe that we have to beg children to play. When I was young (and I’m not that old!), it was as if my parents had to pull teeth to get my sisters and I to STOP playing and come inside for dinner. In fact, finding us outside was such a chore, that Mom and Dad attached a rope to the large iron bell in the cupola on top of the garage and rang it when and it was time to come in. We spent hours in the woods building forts, in the creek catching crayfish, or even just in a neighbor’s yard, making up dances to the latest Madonna song.

Carly1 Improving Childhood Fitness Through Soccer

Most of these memories took place a little more than two decades ago, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says in just the past 20 years the prevalence of children who are obese has doubled, while the number of adolescents who are obese has tripled. So how does that translate into actual numbers? The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found nearly one in three children and teens are overweight and one in six are obese. Some may argue that BMI, or Body-Mass-Index, isn’t the “best” way to determine whether or not someone is overweight, but consider this: Kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours each day using entertainment media. According to the Let’s Move campaign website, this includes TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies. Although some may blame modern technology for making these activities more prevalent and more accessible, we can all agree being sedentary is a huge health risk.

Carly2 Improving Childhood Fitness Through Soccer

On a daily basis, when I get to leave the office and head out to a Soccer Shots site to coach, I feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and the mud beneath my shoes and I feel like the luckiest person alive. I get to revert back to the times when I ran around the neighborhood laughing and burning energy. I get to be a kid again. I get to play! Better yet, I experience the feeling that our organization is making a difference. If the little ones we work with associate a positive feeling or a sense of joy with physical activity, we are on our way to reducing health risks associated with childhood obesity. I’m proud that my job allows me to teach kids to play a game that doesn’t involve a controller.

Carly3 Improving Childhood Fitness Through Soccer

My hope is that the activity doesn’t stop when kids leave our preschool soccer classes. It is my hope that kids share the games we play and parents see the activities we demonstrate in our webisodes. Just a few minutes each day being Cookie Monster or a Rabbit or Turtle could really get parents laughing…. and kids playing!

Kids Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

Drinks Kids Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

We wanted share this article from Parenting Magazine which says that parents may want to re-think their approach to re-hydrating this children.

Throughout the year and especially with the hot summer months approaching it is so important to stay hydrated. Please encourage your kids to drink a lot of water!

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “Rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents. Furthermore, frequent or ex- cessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents.”

Here is the link to the full report.