(Guest post from Coach Alyssa at Soccer Shots Los Angeles)
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.
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!” 🙂
Soccer Shots Los Angeles