After 17 years specializing in coaching kids 4-12 years old, I have observed that most kids play soccer for enjoyment and the life lessons the game provides. Kids (and adults) enjoy this game when they play it for fun, fitness and with old and new friends. The game meanwhile provides opportunities for them to learn vital life lessons like teamwork, respect for other players, adults and officials, sportsmanship, how to handle inevitable victory/success and loss/ failure, trying new things, and doing the best to show up on time and consistently, putting in the best effort even when the easier thing is to quit. Most families, I think, are looking for a quality soccer program that is fun and that will help their kids to become better people even as they play the game. If their player does turn out to have the talent and drive to pursue soccer as a profession, this becomes a welcome result, but it almost always is not their target end result when they put their 4 or 5-year-old in a soccer program. That is as it should be! Yet, I have seen that more and more programs are treating kids as if their target end result is becoming professionals, which is an unrealistic goal if one looks at the available slots for becoming a professional soccer player alone!
I think many parents have healthy expectations for themselves and their child. The problem is there is a lack of alternative, professionally-coached programs, and teams. Most parents I’ve talked to complain that existing Recreational Soccer programs do not meet their expectations. They find these Rec programs lack quality coaches and are indeed often coached by well-intentioned parents, and they also lack the kind of curriculum and equipment you can only find in a program like ours, which is specifically developed to coach young kids year after year. Parents who are thus disappointed by the lack of quality in most Rec Soccer programs thus end up putting their kids in an environment that requires a commitment that neither they nor their families should be asked to make. Many parents, including some with kids who have the talent and drive to possibly become professional soccer players, tell me they and their kids feel overstretched. They feel too many kids are forced to specialize in one sport too early, while they are not ready or sure they want to or can possibly succeed at that sport in the long run. This early specialization is leading to increased physical injuries caused by overuse, and also to psychological wounds as the kids are caught up in an environment that is too toxic — due to pressure to perform by competitive parents, coaches and peers. Worse, some of these kids end up realizing they were not made to specialize in this one sport, sometimes when it is too late to take up any other sport or activity. I think it is a high time parents start rethinking the cost they are willing to pay for most kids whose clear objective is to play soccer for fun, fitness, friends, and life lessons.
Having observed what is wrong in our local soccer environment, we at Coach Ken Soccer have gone ahead to create an alternative program that puts the welfare of the kids and families first. Our goal is to provide easily accessible and reasonably-priced professionally-coached classes, camps and a Rec League for all kids at their local school or park. We created this program based on a few truisms.
First, we understand that for a lot of kids, playing soccer once or twice a week is enough and the easier we can make this, by offering the program at their school or park, the better. Our Monday-Friday camps offer kids an opportunity to do camps for 1, 2, 3, 4 or all 5 days, depending on their level of commitment or availability.
Second, we realize families, especially working families, families with multiple kids who are in different activities and single adult households are stretched for time. These families simply do not have the time to shuttle kids around and that is why offering them programs at their local school or park is an added bonus. For a lot of kids who want to be on a team with their buddies, we offer a Saturday Rec League for kids starting from 6 years old, where 3 buddies can sign up to be on one team. The teams have 7 players and we play 4v4, with the defender as both a sweeper and goalkeeper. We rotate players and positions every 5 minutes. We provide uniforms and the games are at the same time and place every Saturday.
Third, we realize that for kids to grow up to be well—rounded adults, they must be allowed to be kids! This means they should have time to try different sports, other activities, have play dates, visit relatives like grandparents, and visit different places like museums, zoos, nature reserves, places of worship, etc. I think it is shortchanging these kids to expect them to spend most of their free time on evenings and weekends at one activity for most of the year, year after year. That is why we use the same location and time set up for all our programs. It frees the rest of the time, especially during the weekend, for the kids, their families, and friends to do other things.
Fourth, we realize the professionalization of kids’ coaching and playing has made what is one of the world’s cheapest sports too expensive for growing numbers of families. Our program is reasonably-priced for most families to afford, and we do offer scholarships to those who qualify. To qualify, players must provide proof they qualify for free or subsidized lunch. We also offer a military discount at our Monta Loma School site because the school serves the military families based at Moffett.
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