Greater Napanee Soccer Club wrapped up its 35th season for its youngest members on Saturday with the annual year-end tournament.
The day-long event held at Napanee District Secondary School represented the culmination of a spring and summer of learning soccer basics and practicing skills.
Teaching those skills were a handful of green-shirted volunteer coaches, each willing to devote at least one week a night from May through July.
For coaches of the particularly pint-sized players, say six and under, it may likely felt more like herding cats than coaching soccer. Keeping a toddler’s attention can be a challenge at the best of times. Putting 10 of them on the field together and giving them each a soccer ball is a recipe for chaos. Patience is a great skill to have for these coaches, and fortunately they had it in spades.
As a father of one of those miniature athletes, I was often met with bewilderment when I mentioned my two-and-a-half-year-old was playing soccer. Granted, most weeks to say she played soccer was being generous. Often times she was playing her own game in the corner while 15 tykes chased a ball up and down the field.
Silly as it may sound however, there’s science to support the benefits of starting kids in sports at a young age. A USA Today article points to research that shows kids who play sports at a young age learn teamwork, gain self-confidence, have increased motivation and self-discipline and are more likely to ward of obesity. Even if they don’t fully understand the rules of the game, they’re still learning life skills.
Each 45 session of the Greater Napanee Soccer Club house league season contained about 30 minutes of warm up drills followed by a 15 minute game-though at this age there’s no referee and no score is kept-it’s all for fun. Often times the team that had the break away was headed towards their own net. Some players decided kicking a ball was too difficult so they problem solved by just picking up the ball and carrying it. Some were unsure of what to do once they got to the net.
Yet through it all the coaches were there, never losing patience and always willing to offer a helpful tip or a friendly reminder of the goal of the game.
Even if the kids didn’t always know what was going on, they were always having fun.
Certainly not a gig for everyone, but those willing to take on the role should be greatly appreciated by both the athletes and their parents or guardians. Hats off to the coaches and volunteers who helped make the season happen. Their devotion to the game will have a long lasting impact on the youth of Greater Napanee that extends far beyond the soccer field.