I recently read a short article about why kids should play soccer (5 Reasons Your Child Should Play Soccer http://www.homejobsbymom.com/child-play-soccer/). This got me to thinking about why my kids play soccer and why I think all kids should play soccer.
My son's soccer "career" started when he was about 6. We tried a lot of sports with him before settling on soccer. Our local Parks & Recreation Department has a program called Grasshopper Sports that gives a child a taste of each sport. We tried flag football, soccer and baseball. I grew up playing baseball and couldn't wait for my son to do the same. When Grasshopper baseball rolled around I was so excited. I couldn't wait for him to get out there and love it as much as I did. Well, to my huge disappointment, he was bored out of his mind and hated it. How could you?! It's baseball! I was heartbroken. Then came soccer and he loved it! What do I do now? I know nothing about soccer. It's a weird sport; constant movement, no timeouts, no using your hands! What the heck?! So, we registered him in Anderson Youth Soccer and here we are 11 years later; my wife and both coach and we are both on the board. My son is in high school playing high school soccer and league soccer. And my daughter, 10, has been playing for the last 5 years. Who would have thought?
But, why should kids play soccer? The article above outlines some of the reasons that I would come up with, however, for me, there are a lot more than 5 reasons. Soccer has provided both my children with life skills that you may only get from team sports. The friendships they have formed are phenomenal. And, the confidence it has instilled in them is amazing. Growing up, I was not much of a sports kid. I played baseball and I golfed. I was not a football player and soccer was not even in my vocabulary. Now, as an adult and having been involved in league soccer and high school soccer, my eyes are open to the huge benefits of sports.
Of course I am a HUGE soccer guy now and love this sport. I will advocate that every kid should play soccer. Or at least give it a try. However, I think kids should play a sport.... any sport. Especially a team sport. We can have discussions all day about how kids should play sports to get them off the couch and away from video games, but there is much more to it than that. For me, the activity, the winning games, the learning how to play are secondary. For me, it is the bonds they build, the friendships, the mental aspect of winning and losing, the stretching outside of their comfort zone. These are the things that they will hold on to for the rest of their lives. Only a very, very small percentage will go on to be stars and professional athletes. For most, this a fleeting moment in time that will disappear by the time they are in their late teens or early twenties. Let them find a sport or two that they love and get them involved. Keep them involved as long as you can. Don't focus on winning or losing. Don't focus on your child being a superstar. Let them grow naturally. Let them enjoy their time with their teammates. Let them create memories that last a lifetime. Thirty years from now they will not remember losing "that" game; but, they will remember that time they traveled with their team somewhere and had that awesome lunch in that cool little town and how they laughed so hard that soda came out of Johnny's nose.