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Coaching a pre-K soccer team.

How to keep the six-year-and-under set interested in and enthusiastic about soccer

Soccer has had a great role in my life. Through soccer, I developed a positive attitude about my abilities. It has challenged me to help children, especially girls, discover their gifts and feel great about themselves.

Though I realize that an article on my experience in coaching a Pre-K team may not carry over to high school and college coaches, I do feel it can be of interest to teachers who may be called upon to coach children - and what a thoroughly satisfying thing that can be!

Anna Marie Mueller, First Grade Teacher

With my hunter-orange cones in hand, a meshbag filled with black-and-white patterned soccer balls over my shoulder, and visions of the Mid Valley Youth Soccer Championship dancing in my head, I approached the dry, dusty, unlined field upon which I would launch my career as a coach of a six-and-under soccer team.

Coaching a kiddie corps takes total dedication and patience--an individual who can appreciate the little things in life like smart-alecky, hyper-active seemingly hearing-impaired peewees.

It wouldn't be easy, but if I made it through the season without losing my mind or destroying the players' enthusiasm for soccer, I could deem the season a huge success.

For anyone who has just signed on as a first-year coach of "little people," I would like to pass on several recommendations for handling difficult situations while maintaining a positive playing environment--all of which I had to learn in my rookie coaching season.

CROWD CONTROL

"Kids, kids, get over here! It's time for passing." I yelled at the top of my lungs. I began putting down the cones to designate boundaries. As I bent down, I could see little Gabriel making a break for his morn on the sidelines.

I knew that if he made it, I'd have trouble with all the players who wanted to converse with their morns.

I charged over to intercept Gabriel, while shouting to the players gathered around the cones: "Everyone, sit down! It is not time for Freeze Tag yet!"

My brilliance didn't work. Just as I picked off Gabriel, my neat little circle of players broke up into a pack of screaming kids, running off in all directions.

Tip 1: when working with younger children in an unstructured setting, you should have at least one adult for every five children. In kindegarten classrooms, it's possible to have 22 kids in there with one adult, due to restraining devices like desks, walls, and doors.

On a soccer field, you have to have many eyes and hands available to prevent the children from wandering into the street, the neighboring yards, or into a parent's lap.

If you have two coaches, have one act as coach and the other as a crowd controller.

When you get on the field, it's a good idea to exude energy and excitement, as the kids will pick them up from you. But you also have to exude authority and control, which can also be catching.

ARE YOU O.K.?

After a feverish scramble toward the goal, the pack will usually descend upon the net and often boot the ball into the goalkeeper's face - leaving an impression of the logo on it.

The coach has to think fast. I would immediately run out to the goal and try to avert the inevitable flow of tears. With worried parents looking on from the side, I would begin chuckling as I neared the goalie and say in an awed voice, "Tony, what an awesome save. I couldn't believe it!"

I'd pat him on the back. "Hey, look, you even have a battle scar. Spectacular!"

Slowly, the wounded hero's frown would change into a smile and he'd then break into a little chuckle. I'd then really begin laughing to reassure Mom and all the other parents that the kid was okay.

"Hey, Mom," the kid would often yell. "Did you see that save? Coach said it was awesome!"

Superstar was now ready to get back in front of the net and resume practice.

Tip 2: If a child gets hit by a stray ball or falls hard to the ground, remain calm and try using some Jedi-mind games. Most "wounded" kids will cue the adults in injury situations. If, for example, you become a bit hysterical when you reach a kid who has taken a hard fall, you can almost bet that the kid will become hysterical and begin crying or screaming or both.

The same holds true, of course, with parents. The coach must set the tone. She should handle the situation with calm, caution, positiveness, and, if possible, a lightness. At the same time, the coach must make sure the child has no open cuts, bruises, or broken bones.

If the child has a visible injury, the coach should hand him over to a parent and contact a physician. Note: It is vitally essential to have a clearcut accident plan - what to do and who to call, with addresses and telephone numbers. Nothing should be left to chance or on-the-spot judgments.

If the coach is certain that the child is unhurt, she should proceed with the game as soon as possible. In most cases, the damage will just be psychological. If you remain positive and calm, you will probably be able to get the kid back into action without further fuss.

Tip 3: Children who have just begun playing soccer should never be forced to play if they don't want to. When they tell you, "I have to talk to More (or Dad)," they don't really want to play. Don't force them. Whenever a child feels threatened or forced to play, he or she will react negatively, begin crying or throwing a temper tantrum to get out of the situation.

Kids who consistently experience failure or fear in a game will eventually lose interest and maybe even develop a dislike for it.

If, on the other hand, you let the children decide what they want to do, especially for recreation, they won't have to display negative behavior.

Remember, as the coach, you have to make sure all the players feel successful - which you can do by building their confidence in their ability as the season goes on.

HAPPY ENDING

At the conclusion of our first victory, my players jumped up and down, the parents cheered, and the coaches handed out treats...

The happy kids began popping their favorite question about their favorite game, "Can we play Freeze Tag?"

"And I am the Sun!" declared Gabriel.

Every practice and contest ended with this game. It provided the perfect opportunity for the whole team to play and to laugh with one another.

Tip 4: The most basic tip tends to be overlooked, especially as the kids grow older. From time to time, the coach should devise some kind of game that will provide the players with pure, unadulterated fun. Fun time - keeping the game interesting is a fabulous motivator.

When I turned to leave on our last day of the season, my head filled with memories of my players' smiling faces, laughter, and singsong voices, I knew that we all had had a great time - especially when they began asking about next year.

I know it is a terrible cliche, but it applies to my youth soccer experience: "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose the game, what matters is the fun you have along the way."
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Title Annotation:soccer for six-year-old children
Author:Mueller, Anna M.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:1246
Previous Article:A total defensive program.
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