course this month is a celebration of the love of
the game, but it is also an opportunity to take a
look at the many ways that kids benefit from
participation in a sport like soccer.
We know that sports are good for kids for a number
of reasons. Yet, soccer in particular can be so much
more than simply a way to keep your kids
busyóespecially if you start early, and right.
Soccer is a great first sport because itís
relatively easy to learn the basics at a young age.
It is also a great way to get young kids involved in
group learning situations with coaches who teach in
fun, creative ways that donít put undue stress and
pressure on kids.
Young children thrive in soccer programs with a
child development focus where they learn far more
than just how to kick a ball: A truly
age-appropriate program will help children build
confidence, self-esteem, social intelligence, school
readiness skills and healthy habits that can last a
The terms confidence and self-esteem are often used
interchangeably, but their distinctive definitions
are important to understand.
Confidence is how we feel about our abilities to do
things and handle situations. Self-esteem is how we
feel about ourselves. The distinction is important
because we can be confident in our abilities, but
not necessarily have high self-esteem. Having both
leads to healthier interactions and higher learning
When taught with age-appropriate coaching methods in
a fun, dynamic and nurturing environment, kids stay
more engaged and their enthusiasm for learning is
sustained. And the more they practice, the better
they get. The better they get, the better they feel.
The better they feel, the higher the likelihood they
will seek out new challenges.
Soccer occurs in a group setting that generates a
beneficial social dynamic. Kids learn how to
interact with and get along with others because
someone is there to help guide their behavior within
the group. And itís not always the coach that does
the guiding. Kids can be very honest and very
direct. The natural consequences that flow from one
child due to another childís actions can be just as,
if not more, influential in redirecting behavior
than a reprimand from a coach or parent. As a result
children learn how to identify social cues and
follow rulesóskills that are also known as
self-regulation, impulse control and accountability.
Some say that for kids the ability to grasp these
concepts is more important for entering school for
kids than learning the alphabet, colors and how to
count because they influence how well a child can
think and regulate emotions. Kids who are more adept
in these areas are more likely to actively engage in
school, become competent learners and have healthier
And then there is fitness. Obesity concerns are well
documented but there is more to overall health and
well-being than making sure our kids are not
overweight. Of course exercise burns fat and helps
develop balance and coordination and improve fitness
levels. But it can also help reduce stress and
anxiety producing happier, better adjusted children.
The positive influence soccer can have on your child
is vast. Just make sure you choose wisely. Not all
programs are created equally and some can actually
have adverse affects. Select programming with a
strong developmental focus that allows for plenty of
fun and letís your child simply be a kid.