We often get asked the question, “Locker Soccer Academy indoor classes or our local recreational program for our 4, 5 or 6-year-old?”
The answer to this question depends on several factors, and they are very much worth examination.
Let’s first look at your child. Where does he or she fit within the spectrum of the child development stages? Is your child shy or timid? Is he or she big, strong and athletic compared to their peers? Early bloomer or a late bloomer? There are so many characteristics that go into determining the kind of experience your child will have in their first competitive environment, and it’s important that you consider these very carefully because there are no “do overs” with our children’s athletic pursuits.
Next, let’s look at what the recreational league offers. Typically, there is a very nice variety of ability levels and with all of the teams, there is plenty of excitement on game days. There are some inherent risks, however, and parents need to be fully aware of the pitfalls. With many large leagues, institutional control becomes problematic. Parents are expected to coach, and the amount of guidance and training these adults receive is often very limited, equating your child’s experience to a game of Russian Roulette. Trust me, I’ve encountered a lot of retired 6-year-old soccer players who always report the same cause for early retirement, ”it wasn’t that much fun.” Usually, the parent will add that the parent coach was a screamer or a yeller, or some other issue that didn’t sit well with them or their child. Children view competition very differently from us adults, and most are not ready for a “real” game of soccer.
Children view competition very differently from us adults, and most are not ready for a “real” game of soccer until around the age of 6 or 7. The cute beehive moving around the field is just not as much fun as we adults may think. With the bigger, stronger and faster kids getting all of touches on the ball, it’s easy to see why so many kids quit (retire) by age 6. They didn’t get to touch the ball all that much. Through our many years of working with tens of thousands of children, we at Locker Soccer have a clear understanding of what it is that keeps kids playing and progressing towards very capable athletic careers. First and most importantly, all phases of participation have to be about FUN. While 70% of all kids quit sports by the age of thirteen, it’s truly refreshing to see our Locker Soccer kids nearing their college soccer pursuits. They all seem to have such great attitudes.
The next critical ingredient is the mastery of skill. Gaining control of the ball (no matter what sport it is), is the proverbial dangling carrot. The more kids grow skill, the more “hooked” they become. This is what leads to high levels of self-motivation and ultimately passion. Once a child has the hunger to pursue his or her own development, our job as parents becomes so much easier. We get to sit back and watch their confidence soar. If I could counsel parents on just one thing to try to control, it would be choosing the person who is directly working with their child.
If I could counsel parents on just one thing to try to control, it would be choosing the person who is working directly with their child – the coach. If they have a coach who perpetuates fun and skill-development, keep your child with that coach. This offers us as parents, the best chance to raise healthy, responsible, children. Isn’t that what our ultimate goal is anyhow?