In our most recent coaches meeting, we took some time to discuss how we interact with our children with regard to our mission of producing confident, creative and cooperative young children through soccer. Known throughout the world as “The Beautiful Game,” soccer provides its players and fans with an incredible, creative experience, that is enjoyed by millions upon millions of people.
When I conceived the idea of Locker Soccer in 2003, it was not a simple endeavor of the old coach merely playing soccer with kids, but the critical question for me was; how do I design a program that allows children to be expressive and fosters creativity, and at the same time, addresses the challenging task of also including structure… something young children crave?
I wanted to give children room to explore and create.
At the same time, they also needed to learn to conform to societal norms. Hence, I have devised a scenario where children can get easily confused. The boundaries are not always distinguishable to a young child. This is the challenge we face as coaches at Locker Soccer.
As parents, we seek opportunities to provide our children with a wide variety of growth experiences. Many of these activities require a much higher level of discipline and structure, and that’s a good thing. For instance, in gymnastics, you cannot simply let kids run around the floor and experience all of the different equipment on their own. It’s simply too dangerous. Or swimming… you get that!
Soccer is different. I love seeing kids run around and do their own thing. Nothing really harmful can happen to them, and most importantly, they get to make lots of mistakes. They learn to overcome adversity. When you really think about it, the dynamic is incredible and the growth process takes on so many really cool aspects of the “whole child.” We’re creating resilient children.
Because we promote this exploration and curiosity in children, we often find ourselves dealing with various kinds of behavior. I see this behavior manifesting itself in three ways: typical or appropriate behavior; attention-seeking behavior; and sometimes, disruptive behavior.
Sitting on the sidelines, we can easily get caught up in the judging process that we parents sometimes engage in with respect to how our child is performing. I should point out that the overwhelming majority of behavior that we see is totally appropriate.
But what about the behavior that can sometimes cause us pause?
Attention Seeking Behavior
To us, this is not a problem. It’s fairly typical, actually. Our strategy is to ignore this behavior and hope that the activities that we are engaging in will ultimately pull that child back to the group. If other children begin to “copy” that behavior, we simply try to remind them that this particular behavior is not appropriate.
Unfortunately, this tends to diminish the experience for other children, and this is always the most difficult for our coaches. We strive to ensure that every child is having the absolute best experience possible. We want our kids (and their parents) to be ecstatic about the class that they just completed at Locker Soccer, every class. So what should we do?
First, I ask our coaches to try to be as consistent as possible in dealing with this type of behavior. That fine line that I have drawn in the sand with my goal of producing creative children can be very confusing to a three or four-year-old. If the behavior continues and is truly taking away from the experience for the rest of the class, we may ask a child to sit with his/her parents “until they are ready” to rejoin the group in a positive way. This puts the onus on the child (and sometimes the parent) to rethink their behavior and gain an understanding of where that line is.
Never Beat Yourself Up
After having over 40,000 children come through our programs, we have seen it all. We know you are a very caring parent, that’s why you chose Locker Soccer! I sometimes joke that my mission with my teenage daughter is to embarrass her whenever the chance presents itself. Perhaps our children’s mission is to do the same whenever they can. I assure you, the tables will flip.
If you ever feel the desire or need to chat, I encourage you to please seek me or the other coaches out. Our experience over time has provided us with a unique perspective on the child development continuum and we are here to help ensure that your journey is as pleasant as possible.
Thank you so much for trusting us in this very small part of your child’s growth, and we look forward to many years of partnering in this endeavor.
– Steve Locker