Top 10 Reasons to Get Your Child Involved in Soccer
Why an Age-Appropriate Soccer Program is Important
Karen Crowe, MA
Director of Child Development, Lilí Kickers

Of 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 lifetime.

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 outcomes.

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 relationships.

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.