The Soccer Shots (Los Angeles) Story

Rian jacket21 The Soccer Shots (Los Angeles) Story

Way back in 2008, when the country was in the early stages of the greatest recession of our generation, my wife Alyssa and I were in our first full year operating Soccer Shots. After months of careful consideration we decided to purchase the 16th franchise in the Soccer Shots system (today, there are more than 100 franchises in the system).

We knew the challenge that confronted us, not just the odds that face all new businesses, but given the turbulent economic times we knew we had an extra steep hill to climb. Looking back, I think we were also somewhat blind to the odds (either consciously or unconsciously, I am not sure) as we only focused on succeeding. We had a business plan, financial projections, and the desire to do what it took to succeed.

Alyssa and I knew we wanted to work with children and in the field of education.

Given the importance of physical fitness in children and their ability to learn and excel in school, Soccer Shots seemed like a perfect fit. Having previous experience working for a privately run charter school, global agencies, local companies, and Fortune 500 businesses we also knew that we wanted to start something of our own. And an opportunity that would support the family that we planned on having and that would succeed or fail based on the effort, decisions, and dedication that we invested. And of course there is always some level of luck involved.

In early 2008, not a single child in Los Angeles had experienced Soccer Shots. This year 10,000 children will experience Soccer Shots. In 2008 it was Alyssa and I handling every task, starting every relationship with schools, scheduling every season, coaching every class, and completing all of the administrative tasks. We were very much learning day to day and improving little by little with the intent to survive and hopefully grow. Today our team consists of 11 full time salaried employees and 10-15 part time employees. Virtually every hour of every day of the week there is a Soccer Shots class running somewhere in Los Angeles!

Soccer Shots Coaches and Kids The Soccer Shots (Los Angeles) Story

When I think about the growth that we have been so fortunate to experience, I can’t help but think about the future and where Soccer Shots will be in years to come. As a small business owner my focus naturally shifts to looking ahead but it is important from time to time to reflect on the past and how we got to where we are today. Looking back I realize that from day one we have been very intentional about our vision for Soccer Shots and truly believe that this vision and our success are directly linked. Every decision that we have made has been answered by thinking about our vision and who we are.

Our goal has always been to offer a quality program for the families in Los Angeles.

This goal has not changed, however we have learned that in order to survive in an increasingly competitive market, we must continue to strive to be remarkable and that part of achieving this was identifying the ways to make our program truly unique.

What Makes Soccer Shots Unique?

Employees, Not Independent Contractors
Our directors and coaches are all employees of Soccer Shots. This means our entire team is covered under Workers Compensation and Disability and many receive health and other benefits. Many programs farm out services to independent contractors. However, due to the nature of our work with children and the quality we wish to uphold, we prefer the conservative path of fully trained and screened employees.

Character Development + Soccer
Character development is the foundation of our program. Our professionally designed curriculum is structured around our 10 character building words. Each class utilizes our innovative curriculum which extends beyond physical activity to incorporate values like respect, honesty, teamwork, and encouragement.

Heims SS 960x946 The Soccer Shots (Los Angeles) Story

Family Owned & Operated Since 2007
Soccer Shots is owned by myself and my wife Alyssa. Together with our team we make every effort to deliver a remarkable program that children, parents, and schools will bene!t from and enjoy. As parents ourselves of two young children (Charles and Amelia) we understand the many needs of families.

Our primary focus is and always has been to serve the needs of the schools that we partner with. We understand the unique challenges and are experienced in meeting and often exceeding the expectations.

Trained & Certified Coaches
All coaches have successfully completed extensive group and one-on-one training by Soccer Shots. This means up to a couple of months of training alongside an experienced Soccer Shots Director/Lead Coach as well as ongoing professional development.

Squeaky Clean Records
Our entire team has successfully completed live scan fingerprint background checks through the State of California, certified FBI and Department of Justice agencies. Copies are provided upon request.

Early Childhood Education (ECE)
Many of our coaches have completed or are working toward fulfilling at least 12 ECE credits. We seek individuals with backgrounds in education and child development first. Soccer skills and experience are second.

Certified Mandated Reporters
Our entire team is aware that by law they are Mandated Reporters and are all certified by the California Department of Social Services. The safety and well being of the children are always top of mind.

Rewards Program
At the schools we serve we offer scholarships & all-play policy in an attempt to include children who want to participate regardless of their ability to pay. Many schools have fundraisers throughout the year and we make donations, typically in the form of gift baskets which include certificates for a free season. Another form of fundraising for schools that we serve is an incentive where we give a portion of the registration fees back to the school.

Maximum Levels of Insurance
Soccer Shots is fully insured with above required levels of coverage.

“Our primary focus is and always has been to serve the needs of the schools that we partner with. We understand the unique challenges and are experienced in meeting and often exceeding the expectations.”

In the end, our vision is to offer an experience that will leave a lasting effect on the children and families that we serve.

The Importance Of Having Fun

(Guest Post by Lead Coach Matt)

Matt The Importance Of Having Fun

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.

 The Importance Of Having Fun

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.

The Mentoring Effect + Soccer Shots

Mentoring Works The Mentoring Effect + Soccer ShotsJanuary was first designated National Mentoring Month in 2002, and while the concept of mentoring has been around pretty much forever, researchers and educators have since made it a priority to back up the idea with evidence.

This month, 12 years after the Inaugural National Mentoring Month, MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, has released some impressive, encouraging, and profound research.

In their research, published as The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspective on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring (2014), MENTOR concludes the following:

  •  There are two types of mentoring relationships, Informal/Unstructured and Formal/Structured. Informal mentoring relationships usually form between a young person and a family friend, a teacher, or a coach. Formal mentoring relationships are developed and matched with a purpose, often through schools and community groups.
  • Young people with mentors are more likely to report positive behaviors, like graduating from college, participating in sports and extracurricular activities, and often hold leadership positions in the activities they engage in.
  • Youth believe mentoring provides them with the guidance and support they need to live productively. More specifically, young people in informal mentoring relationships often stated that their mentor provided developmental support, over academic support, talking with them more often about making good decisions and staying motivated in life.
  • One in three young people, and even more at-risk youth, report that they never had a mentor growing up. That means, nationwide, today approximately 16 million youth, including 9 million at-risk youth, will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor.

Coach Andy Charles1 e1390524464198 The Mentoring Effect + Soccer Shots

MENTOR (2014) goes on to identify mentoring as a critical link in the chain of outcomes for youth today, that ultimately produces more active citizens and stronger leaders, better schools and healthier communities. 

So… as our Soccer Shots Coaches head out onto the soccer field and talk about our character words each week, we like to think we are planting the seeds for many, or at the very least, one, meaningful mentor in each child’s life. It’s not just about developing young soccer players, but developing stronger youth, beyond the game.

Reference: The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring. (2014). MENTOR: Expanding the world of quality mentoring. Retrieved from http://www.mentoring.org/mentoringeffect

Learning From Mandela

(Guest Post from Mark Miller, Owner, Soccer Shots Buffalo)

It’s truly amazing what you can realize as an adult.

When Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, I thought of his contributions to South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement, and his status as a world symbol for peace and unity.

But over the weekend, while browsing social media posts about the former leader, I was reminded of something that I had heard and was vaguely aware of: his love of sport. Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”

SS Mandela Learning From Mandela

I was so moved by that quote. It’s so true at Soccer Shots. Small children from disparate backgrounds are all one and the same on our ‘Soccer Island’ while kicking a ball around and cheering each other on as they shoot a goal.

I thought it was important to share what was behind Mandela’s inspirational words. It can be a great opportunity for a discussion with your kids on many topics, from acceptance to forgiveness.

South Africa was racially segregated, as many know. That segregation extended even into the sporting world. In 1995, Mandela joined a crowd comprised of predominantly white South Africans at the Rugby World Cup, where the Springboks, the South African team, was playing. They won, and Mandela presented the white captain with the trophy. This was captured in the 2009 film, Invictus.

It started a movement, and the Springboks’ success galvanized the entire nation. By reaching out with an olive branch, Mandela united his country around the sport. The jerseys, once-hated because they were seen as whites-only apparel, became ubiquitous on whites and blacks alike.

Captain Francois Pienaar said of that moment when Mandela handed him the trophy, “We didn’t have the support of 63,000 South Africans today. We had the support of 42 million.”

We’re always amazed at the power of sport (especially soccer) because it puts all countries on a worldwide stage, like the upcoming World Cup — but it’s incredible to think that a leader as influential as Nelson Mandela saw sports the same way. He not only realized this, but actually made use of this to bring about change!

The New Girl

(Guest Post from Coach Taylor Fowler)

Taylor3 The New Girl

As I complete my first season with our Soccer Shots family, I felt it was only right to write a reflective piece that would explain what it’s like to join a new program.

WEEKS 1-4

Like most of our little friends it took me a couple of weeks to get the hang of things. Traveling to my first class week 1 seemed to be the most nerve racking. Although I knew that I wouldn’t be coaching alone, I had a serious case of the “What if questions” …

“What if the kids don’t like me?”  “What if the parents think I’m a horrible teacher?” “What if I forget to give the children a water break?” “What if they think girls can’t coach soccer?” 

As I shut off the ignition and shyly walked over to soccer island I was greeted with lots of smiles and plenty of high fives and welcomes from all of the parents; I started to loosen up a bit. Before I knew my first day had come and gone along with my apprehension.

For me weeks 2-4 were my developing stages, I was still nervous every time I would walk into a school or drive up to a park, but with each smile and high five and “great job,” the nervousness I had, began to fade and a new feeling started. It was a feeling of confidence.

Coach Taylor coaching The New Girl

Week 6

My favorite week has to be week 6! During my own development, I had progressed from an assistant coach to leading classes of my very own. Leading classes meant higher expectations. As a coach I am responsible for the development of my little friends, like mastering a move. And as most coaches will tell you, there is nothing better than having your whole class master a move.

For me this happened during week 6, one of my classes seemed to really struggle with a particular move during week 4.  Knowing this, I didn’t put too much pressure on my little friends to get the move down. Instead I made up a game that would cause them to repeatedly have to try the move. By week 6, I simply asked the class “who remembers hocus pocus?” (step-over move), and to my surprise all of my friends stood up and started doing the step-over move.  I was so elated I even called my mom and dad to tell them about my breakthrough at work. 

WEEKS 7-10

I no longer had the feeling of anxiousness. It had been replaced fully with confidence. I started incorporating concepts from my very own soccer experiences into my classes. Not only did I see the progression within myself, but more and more of the children in my classes were greeting me with “Coach Taylor look at what I can do” or “Coach Taylor I have been working on this move.” Many of my little friends had grown confident in their own abilities too.

As with all great things that come to an end, the conclusion of my first season was a bitter/sweet moment for me. I knew I would miss all of smiling faces and numerous adventures we had on Soccer Island. But I also felt a sense of assurance. I know that I have all of the tools to not only be a great coach, and to also aspire to be a REMARKABLE one as well.

 

SSLA Leadership Announcement

AndyBaenaBW SSLA Leadership Announcement

I am pleased to announce that we have added a new position to our leadership team. This is a role that until this month did not exist but one that Alyssa and I feel is necessary in order for our program to continue to grow and improve.

Andy Baena joined our team two years ago coaching just a few classes per week. He was a good coach who had the skills we were looking for but also had plenty to learn. Fortunately he was aware of areas where he could improve, paid close attention to quality people around him, and was eager to learn and improve. This curiosity is a skill that he possesses to this day and one that is highly valued.

Just last year he accepted the position of Assistant Director and began showing serious passion, dedication, and growth within our organization. Coach Andy in one of the finest youth coaches in Los Angeles, no doubt. This is not just my opinion. Andy has the overwhelming support and trust of our team of coaches and directors. And according to the families and schools that we serve Andy is truly remarkable.

Andy is a leader. He leads by example, with the way that he conducts himself in every class with the children, every conversation with parents, and every interaction with our team.

Andy has the rare combination of just having “it” with the kids, charming the staff at the sites that we serve, and amazing the parents of the children in our program.

I am pleased that Andy is now the Executive Director of Soccer Shots Los Angeles. Andy will oversee all facets of the business. He will focus heavily on SSLA team leadership, this includes communicating and reinforcing the SSLA vision and core values, supporting SSLA directors, as well as coach recruiting/training/mentoring. In addition, Andy will oversee all accounts to ensure the development, quality, and performance at schools and parks.

Congratulations Andy. You have earned it. Now let’s get back to work!

SSLA Team Announcement!

AlyssaMcGarigal SSLA Team Announcement!

I have an important and exciting announcement to make!

Most of you know and have worked with Alyssa McGarigal (if you haven’t you will soon). Alyssa has been coach / lead coach with SSLA over the past 20+ months and is now stepping into a new role with us. Having completed her Masters in Counseling from LMU (graduation is next week, Congratulations!) Alyssa is now Director of Program + Community Advancement. Alyssa is a truly remarkable person and I could not be happier about this announcement. All of us will benefit from the expertise, dedication, and passion that she brings to our organization.

We have an amazing team and I am confident that Alyssa brings a set of skills that will advance our program to an even higher level.

She will be responsible for a number of projects, a few examples are:

1) Coach Development (Hiring, Training, Observing, Etc.).
2) Program Development and Research (Represent, advocate, and explain SS to current staff, schools, and organizations)
3) Develop and Oversee the development of camps and park classes.
4) Program Ambassador (Effectively communicate SSLA mission and vision to staff, parents, site directors, and other community members).

More details and information will come from Alyssa and myself in the coming days and weeks, if you have any questions please contact me anytime.

Please join me in congratulating Alyssa and welcoming her into her new role