Between March and October, soccer fields around the country come to life. Kids are laughing, running and having an amazing time while learning a world-famous sport. While kids soccer may be a sport that is just now coming into its own in the United States, it has been a favorite in other countries for a long time.
Known as football in other countries, soccer is the most widely played sport in the world. Regardless of what you call it, this game provides an excellent physical workout while also teaching kids some valuable life lessons. Teaching your kids soccer is something you can begin doing almost as soon as they have mastered the skill of walking.
BENEFITS OF SOCCER
There are many reasons why you might consider teaching your kids soccer. Consistent running and movement is a key aspect of soccer, making it an ideal way to keep fit and one of the top benefits of having your child play. During a game or even a practice, kids work out their cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular systems. Not to mention, the strategizing aspect of the game also gives the brain a good workout.
Kids soccer also has many social benefits. Your child will learn to get along and work well with others. Kids learn to handle disappointment when they lose and how to be grateful when they win. They make lasting friendships and learn how to get along with others with whom they may not see eye to eye.
Soccer allows kids to have fun while also reaping the physical and social benefits. It is a great way to spend some time one-on-one with your child as well. Whether you are teaching your child the sport or running drills with him or her, the time spent together is a nice chance to have quality time together, which often is difficult to fit into a busy life.
IS IT EVER TOO EARLY TO TEACH KIDS SOCCER?
You may wonder at what age to start teaching your kids soccer. The consensus is age three is a good starting point. By this age, your child should have a good handle on walking and running to enable him or her to start playing. In addition, this is a time when kids develop motor skills and learn coordination, and playing soccer can help boost that skill development.
One thing to keep in mind is that their bodies are still developing. Parenting Magazine notes that some experts worry that starting kids too early in sports could lead to more wear and tear on the body that results in more serious injuries when they get older. For this reason, it is important to avoid competition kids soccer at this point and focus more on just teaching skills and learning basics individually.
SKILLS TO FOCUS ON
You want to start your child out with learning the fundamentals of kids soccer. That includes not only the base skills but also the basic concepts, such as teamwork and being a good sport. You should always start out informally to introduce them to the ball and the main rules of the game. You can then start working on specific skills.
Start with controlling the ball. They need to learn to keep the ball under their control at all times to be a good player.
Juggling means keeping the ball in the air using various parts of the body. In soccer, players can manipulate the ball with any part of the body except the hands. Juggling the ball using the feet, knees, thighs, chest, and head will help them to become a better soccer player -- as well as a more coordinated human being.
Dribbling means moving the ball forward, using the feet. Start with kicking the ball forward, and gradually move up to passing it forward from foot to foot.
That brings us to passing, or kicking the ball between players. Start by doing this from a stationary position. Then work on passing while running down the field.
Finally, you must teach your child how to shoot or kick the ball where they want it to go. This is a good time to focus on the end goal of the game. You should also teach your child where to kick the ball and how to know which goal to shoot to during a game.
After your child learns basic skills, he or she is ready to find a kids soccer club and get into competitive play. Knowing some skills beforehand helps give your child some confidence when he or she starts to play with others.
TEACHING GUIDELINES BY AGE
US Youth Soccer recommends guidelines for what to focus on at each age level. They help ensure you are not going beyond the developmental abilities of your child. In addition, keeping kids soccer practice age appropriate helps reduce frustration to ensure they enjoy learning and develop a lifelong love of the sport.
Ages three to five
As mentioned, you can start your kids on soccer around age three. From three to about five, you want to stay casual. Do not push your child. Just allow him or her to learn about the ball and to get a feel for moving it around using his or her feet. You can introduce the very basic rules of the game. Specifically, this is when to teach your child not to touch the ball with their hands, and to focus only on using the feet to move it.
During this time, your child is learning how to use his or her body to move the ball. Kids will also build balancing skills. They learn to play fair and to manage their emotions when playing a sport, which are essential skills to know before they start playing with others.
Age six to eight
Around age six, you can start looking for a kids soccer club. At this point, your child may even ask to join a program or express more interest in playing the sport instead of just fooling around with the ball. Teach your child how to juggle, pass, and block. Start to teach about the positions and what the job of each position is.
Your child will learn agility and coordination. He or she also starts to find it easier to work with others and be part of a team.
Age nine to 12
At this point, your child knows the basics and can begin learning more complex moves. You should begin with a focus on moving the ball efficiently and making goals. Help your child to work properly within a team and stay focused on the goal.
This is also a good age to teach your child that ever match provides a learning opportunity.
In these years, your child is building endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, all very important physical attributes needed for kids soccer. Your kid also builds the ability to play a full game and be an effective player.
Age 13 and older
Your child now has years of playing kids soccer under his or her belt. These are the years when he or she can begin to perfect the game. Mastering skills and advanced movements should take place. Your child should learn to put more power in his or her game. You can focus in on teaching self-discipline and encouraging your child to take more control over his or her training. This is also the age group where a child can learn to strategize and play in a more controlled way.
TIPS FOR BUILDING SKILLS
One important thing to keep in mind as you begin teaching your kids soccer is that every child learns at a different pace and has different abilities. Some kids just will not click with soccer, and that is perfectly fine. You should never force your child to play.
You also should avoid being too aggressive when first introducing the sport. Just grab a ball and hit the grass. Let your kid play. Keep it unstructured and loose at first. Just get your child moving and connecting with the ball.
As your child begins to build skills, you should train often. One of the best ways to become good at soccer is to practice as much as possible. Training only when the team has practice will leave your kid behind. Make sure to have some dedicated training time outside of practice, too.
A FEW TRICKS
Try passing drills against a wall. This lets your child practice alone and still learn this important skill. You also want to practice incoming drills. Help your child to learn how to properly head a ball by hitting with the forehead and pushing the ball. This helps to avoid concussions.
You also do not always need to be playing. Your child can also learn kids soccer by watching older athletes play. Seeing professionals or older kids not only lets your child see different skills but also helps feed the love for the sport. Believe it or not, playing soccer video games can also help your child build skills. These games encourage strategizing and planning that are both good skills for a player to have.
HOW TO CHOOSE SOCCER SHOES
Image via flickr
All you really need to play kids soccer is a ball and some shoes. With that in mind, choosing the right shoes is very important. They can have a huge impact on how well your child plays. If the shoes do not have the right fit or cleat, they can hinder your child's ability to effectively move the ball.
The overall fit needs to be snug but not so tight that the upper presses against the foot or the toe is right up against the front of the shoe. They also need to be made from a durable and lightweight fabric. They should allow your child to feel the ball well through the shoe. Getting a good grip on the ball is essential to controlling it. It also needs the right traction or cleats for the field your child will play on.
When choosing a cleat, make sure to check any restrictions of the club or the field. You can get molded cleats or detachable. Detachable allows you to switch out the cleats based on the field and are a nice choice if you play on different surfaces.
There are some different cleat options. Firm ground cleats are made for grass fields and provide extra traction. Hard ground cleats are for hard surfaces because they do not dig in. Indoor cleats don't actually have cleats, which would tear up an indoor play surface. Soft ground cleats work well for muddy fields, while turf cleats are for artificial fields.
The last consideration is the ankle height. Mid-height provides better ankle protection than low-height. However, mid-height cleats do restrict movement of the ankle. They are best for defensive players. Low height is best for forwards and wingers. Low ankle cleats are what you should choose for a first pair of kids soccer shoes.
HOW TO FIND A PROGRAM IN YOUR AREA
When you're ready to get your child into a kids soccer program, you shouldn't have to look much further than your local community center. Most areas have kids soccer programs through local community sports programs, YMCAs, churches, and other youth sports leagues. There are also national programs offering opportunities across the country. These include US Youth Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization. Both organizations offer programs for all ages and have special needs programs as well.
If you love soccer, then it's not a stretch to want your kids to play, too. You can start them pretty early, but always keep it age appropriate. That helps keep injuries to a minimum while also allowing your child to develop a love of the sport. Kids soccer should always focus on the experience over winning. You want to foster a fun feeling when your child plays.
You can teach all the basic skills to your child before looking for a club to join. Once your child starts playing with a team, he or she will then be able to master skills and become an accomplished player.