Why Should Children Be Encouraged To Play Soccer?

 By: Neil Stafford
In today's media we are constantly being reminded of a health time bomb that is about to explode as children today are not active enough.

There are so many competing distractions for our children's attention, video games, endless channels to watch, these can all lead to sedentary lifestyle if they are not kept in check.

Soccer is the beautiful game, played by millions of young girls and boys (aged 6 to 18) across many continents, whether it's on the beaches of Rio, the back alleys of a major city nearby or the local park, you will find someone kicking a football around.

In today's society there has been a shift to more organised soccer practice for our youth players. Gone are the days of jumpers for goal posts, as streets are littered with cars and grass verges now have houses built on them.

Having a more structured approach is both a good and a bad thing; on one hand young players get structured development and education through willing volunteers who show them how everything from how to warm up correctly, develop their technical ability with the ball right through to skill development and organised small sided games to wrap everything up together to provide a total learning experience.

Today time is limited and therefore there may be only an hour or two devoted to structured soccer practice during the week, what happens when practice is over?

Getting your child to participate in an organised soccer school or club can bring tremendous benefits to you and your child.

Soccer can help increase your child's self esteem, which feeds their self talk which ultimately drives their performance. But soccer isn't the only winner, quite often it can be seen that academic performance can increases to!

Studies have shown that getting young children involved in soccer at an early stage promotes a real healthy attitude towards the game and this attitude continues with them into adult life.

The number one reason why children play soccer is to have fun; if soccer is fun and enjoyable then players will want to continue playing. This benefits their overall fitness and reduces their health risks considerably.

Soccer is made fun by coaches worldwide who willingly give up their time voluntarily to organise youth soccer practice and coach teams.

Gone are the days when soccer, for the really young players, was an 11 a side game with offside rules and no touches of the ball for massive periods of the game.

Youth soccer from the age of 6 to 11 is typically about having fun, playing small sided matches such as 4 v 4 with no goal keepers, promoting lots of touches of the ball and player interaction on the pitch.

Through playing soccer and encouraging children to take regular exercise many of the risk factors that are associated with heart disease such as obesity and diabetes can be reduced significantly. It is stated that childhood obesity has increased by more than 50% since 1976, which is a really scary fact.

Getting your child involved in soccer doesn't just improve their health. We've mentioned already the improvements at school.

Social benefits, such as mixing with others, having to work as a team, contributing through individual effort to a collective goal, experiencing the highs and lows, picking each other up, competition, striving to be the best, aiming to win and supporting and helping others are all by products of playing soccer.

Many of the life skills that the players learn through soccer are beneficial in later life, how to form and build relationships, developing a sense of co-operation, how to lead people, how to handle adversity, what commitment means and punctuality, are all key qualities that will benefit the players in adult life.

If your child is already playing soccer, great. But what can you do if you want to get your child involved in a local soccer team? Here are seven must ask questions that you and your child should consider when attempting to find a suitable club…

1) What level of commitment is required in terms of practice sessions and games at the weekend?

2) When are the training sessions? When are games played, what's the format and how much time will you need to devote?

3) How far are you willing to travel to training and to matches? Some clubs will operate travel teams where distances can be considerable, including overnight stops.

4) What are the costs involved? Some clubs adopt a pay when you play, others a more structured approach. The most expensive clubs are not always the best, ask yourself is what your paying in the equivalent to what your child is getting out?

5) What do you and your child want out of playing soccer? This needs to be aligned with the prospective clubs philosophy, is it about having fun or winning?

6) How best will your child learn, develop and stay interested? Are they happy just to be involved or would they thrive in a more competitive environment?

7)What is the clubs constitution and philosophy to soccer, how long have they been in existence, the experience of the coaches, location, facilities etc.

Once you have considered the above questions what are your next steps to finding a suitable club or soccer organisation for your child?

You can…

i) Get in touch with your local Soccer Association by searching the web or looking in yellow pages. They should be able to provide you with a list of clubs and organisations in your local area.

ii) Ask other parents/guardians about local junior and youth soccer teams. You'll be surprised at how many adults or their children are involved.

iii) Encourage you children to ask their school mates where they play their soccer. Knowing some of the team can be a real advantage as players integrate themselves into a team.

iv) Ask your child's form tutor or headmaster if they know of any clubs or organisations. Many clubs have formed good relationships with the schools over the years.

v) Read the local papers or local news websites you'll be amazed at how much coverage youth and junior soccer gets.

These five practical steps should enable you to find a club that meets yours and your child's soccer aspirations. However, if there still isn't a club near you that can satisfy a need why not look to set up your own team!
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