Soccer Shots: Parent Expectations Re: Ages + Stages

AlyssaM CoachCard 300x300 Soccer Shots: Parent Expectations Re: Ages + Stages
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC, Program Director

As an educator, one of the most common conversations I have with families center around what is “expected” for certain ages and stages of development.

(Don’t get me wrong, as a parent I find myself having this conversation with myself too!)

My child is throwing cones… Is this supposed to happen?

She seems scared to play with the group… Why?

He doesn’t seem like he enjoys the scrimmage… What should I do?

So much of what we see (and do) at Soccer Shots centers around the developmental ages and stages of the children. With expert designed curriculum that put this at the forefront, we are infusing developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) into everything we do.

What does that actually mean? What are the ages and stages? What can I expect from my child at Soccer Shots?

All great questions!

In our Mini (2 year old) sessions, we offer a basic introduction to soccer and character concepts. More than that, we’re building motor skills by running, hopping, sorting, stacking, and kicking. Social and emotional skills are developed listening to and following directions, going on very basic imaginary adventures, and playing along side others. It’s important to note that at this age, we expect children to engage in solitary or parallel play. This means we expect each child to come to the field and play on their own, in a group. Running away and testing boundaries is expected, as is some resistance to change (i.e. a brand new activity like soccer). Our hope and goal for this age group is that they have fun, run, kick, laugh, and develop a young love for being outdoors engaging in physical activity.

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Soccer Shots Classic (3-5 year old) sessions are a little different. At this age, we’re focused on introducing more soccer specific skills that continue to develop and refine motor skills, as well as infusing social/emotional learning (character development) into the curriculum. At the younger end of this age group, children are still engaging in parallel play, testing the boundaries, learning about their own capabilities, and are eager to help and succeed. Towards the latter end of this age group, we start to see cooperative play (group play) emerge, as well as the desire to please and follow the rules. Imagination continues to develop, and we use this to our advantage; our curriculum is loaded with imaginary scenarios and lots of fun! Self-awareness begins to develop as well, and we can see this sometimes in the hesitancy to try something new (for fear of failure). Other times we see the highly social, overly talkative confidence prominently. All of this is totally expected for this age group, understood by our team of coaches, and incorporated into the way we approach each session.

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The social aspect of youth sports and activities begins to take center stage in our 5-6 year old Premier sessions. Is your child waving to you instead of listening to coach or chasing the ball? (Yup! That was me as a child too!) That’s totally expected at this age. This age group begins to understand and appreciate cooperative play, taking turns and following the rules. They also feel pride in their accomplishments, enjoy having basic responsibility, and may get excited to show off a new move or two! Ask them to teach you what they’ve learned, and they’ll eagerly oblige. As physical confidence develops, so does intellectual ability. We continue to have intentional conversations around social/emotional development and aim to create positive feelings associated with physical activity. Even as competitiveness emerges, we teach winning and losing in a constructive way that builds everyone up, rather than tearing ourselves or others down.

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Any questions we didn’t answer? Let us know! Or speak directly to your child’s coach, many of which have received collegiate level child development units and have training from Soccer Shots on the ages and stages!

Source: Child Development Institute, 2015, General Developmental Sequence Toddler through Preschool (https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/devsequence/#.WObS4FKZOV4)

What is luck? Teaching children determination/perseverance

MatthewC CoachCard 150x150 What is luck? Teaching children determination/perseverance
Matthew C., Lead Coach

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”.RcAAdLeji 300x284 What is luck? Teaching children determination/perseverance

 

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”.

 

Screen Shot 2017 03 13 at 12.05.55 PM 276x300 What is luck? Teaching children determination/perseverancePardon 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

 

-Matthew Case

Share the Love: Quality Time

AlyssaM CoachCard 300x300 Share the Love: Quality Time
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC Program Director

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? valentines day hearts 251x300 Share the Love: Quality Time

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?

Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)

AlyssaM CoachCard Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC, Director, Program + Community Advancement

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?” Screen Shot 2015 03 26 at 3.36.54 PM Giving Kids Options (When and Why?)

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.

Teaching Sportsmanship!

JordanL CoachCard1 Teaching Sportsmanship!(Guest Post by Coach Jordan)

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.

Soccer Shots: Coach Chris

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.

Keeping Kids Busy Over Winter Break

AlyssaM1 Keeping Kids Busy Over Winter Break
Alyssa McGarigal, MA, PPSC
Director, Program & Community Advancement

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.

3. Head to a movie, or check out a local museum. We love the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, or the Zimmer Children’s Museum in Mid-City/Miracle Mile. There’s also a new Discovery Cube (opened by Discovery Science Foundation) in Sylmar!

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4. Visit a local park and practice those Soccer Shots moves and games!

5. Find a new favorite book at the local library or bookstore. Have you read “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak? It’s quickly become one of our favorites!

6. Have FUN! 🙂 Spend time together just playing, follow your child’s lead. Build a fort out of couch cushions, or put on a play; let your imaginations take over.

On their own terms…

AlyssaM CoachCard On their own terms... As a Soccer Shots Director, I feel lucky to have a vast array of experiences within the company, from administrative tasks to working with kids and families in the field.

This fall I have worked with two children, at two different schools, that reminded me once again why I LOVE Soccer Shots, why we do what we do, and why we take the approach that we take.

The first child, has played several seasons of Soccer Shots, starting over a year ago, in my class. He was a child that I knew when I met him, would benefit from Soccer Shots. Each week before soccer we talked about having safe, calm bodies, using listening ears, and playing all the games. In a few short weeks, this child fell in love with soccer. We run 4 classes at his school, and each time we walk by his classroom, he excitedly asks if it’s his turn yet. Not every child needs the reminders that this child needs before class, and not every coach would have suggested this child join their class of 10 other kids, on black top. Some coaches, in some other programs, wouldn’t have seen what I saw in this child. Through the imminent added challenge, I saw promise, I saw potential. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I took him into my class without hesitation. I visited this school recently, and this child greeted me with a gigantic hug. During soccer, he reminded me again how unique each child we work with truly is. And how important it is to meet them where they are, and give them every opportunity to succeed, on their own terms. They deserve that. He stopped mid-dribble while I was watching his class, and proclaimed… “A PUDDLE! Coach Alyssa, I just need a second to explore this puddle real quick…”

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Some coaches, in some other programs, would have denied him the opportunity to lay down, close one eye, and really check out that puddle. I knew, if he didn’t get that opportunity, it was probably going to affect his ability to engage in the rest of class. So… we did. We explored the puddle for a little while, and then he went right back to dribbling…

The second child, started her first season of Soccer Shots this fall, and met me on day one, with eyes full of tears. She was shy, hesitant, and reluctant to try something new. Instead of forcing her out of her comfort zone, I let her sit on the side of soccer island to observe our class. By the end of week one’s class, she was trying stop position, on her own, on the sideline. When I acknowledged her success, she was again hesitant to respond. Week two was similar, with some progress. By week three, she was dribbling and doing pull back moves on the sideline, and joining us for a game or two. I never forced her to join, but would occasionally ask her if she wanted to try what we were doing. Most often she declined, but she watched and took in EVERYTHING we were doing.

By week five, there were no tears when myself and the other coach arrived… and she played the entire class with us! She even asked me if she could have a turn playing in the scrimmage! This felt like a huge accomplishment, since scrimmage can be one of the most intimidating parts of class. One ball, 3 or 4 kids on each team, running full speed at each other… But she did it, without hesitation! Screen Shot 2014 11 14 at 4.39.35 PM On their own terms...

We could have suggested this child wasn’t ready for soccer, or that she try again next season… But we didn’t. We gave her the time and space she needed, to join us, on her own terms.

For me, and for many kids, THIS is exactly what Soccer Shots is about. It’s about development. It’s about potential. It’s about small successes. It’s about respecting each child, and giving them the opportunity they need. Soccer Shots also happens to be about soccer and skill building, but for me, and for many kids, that comes second to the skills built when given time and space to develop and grow on their own terms.

Speed Dribbling!

(Guest Post by Lead Coach Kim)

KimZ CoachCard Speed Dribbling! This week is all about speed dribbling. In the first few weeks of classes we go over a lot of the basics and dribbling is one of them. In later weeks we focus on the importance of speeding up and slowing down.

Dribbling is the move that is done the most in soccer and is thus very important. I like the fact that when the coaches teach this skill, they explain it by asking which animals go fast and which go slow and then they act out the animals we our players to imitate. For example when we explain how to go slow like a turtle, we hunch over and walk slow and pretend to have a shell on our back and then ask the kids to do the same. Also when it is time to learn how to go fast like a bunny, we pretend to have floppy ears and show small, fast kicks. The kids can now associate dribbling with animals which will make it easier for them to remember.

Our soccer players practice this new move with a goal scoring game this week. The game involves pretending to be airplanes. We explain that when airplanes take off on a runway, they start off slow and then speed up. When it’s their turn, they practice dribbling by going slow then speeding up which helps them be able to keep control when it comes to scrimmage.

This week is essential to your child’s development in soccer and is also a fun week for them to pretend to be animals and airplanes.

Toe Touches!

(Guest Post by Lead Coach Kim)

KimZ CoachCard Toe Touches!

Thought the season, we practice Toe Touches. What is so great about this skill is that it is a variation on Stop/Control Position and is useful to develop touch and control of the ball when playing soccer.

Check out a Soccer Shots Coach demonstrating Toe Touches!

We explain Toe Touches by telling the children that this move is similar to doing fast stop positions which makes it easier for them to understand. This skill helps to develop control of the ball, which is important during occasions when the kids are dribbling and need to quickly stop the ball for just a moment before continuing to dribble. Balance and quickness are also enhanced by the need to be able to hop from one foot to the next to do the toe touches, which isn’t always easy to do. It also helps young players to improve their gross motor skills and be faster on their feet.

Speed is essential to soccer, as we will talk more about next time. It is good for young players to learn little by little to be quicker on their feet and to have more overall control of the ball, balance, and coordination. Toe Touches are a great way to teach and perfect these abilities, even professional soccer players spend a significant amount of time practicing variations of toe touches!