By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching Instruction, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
We are undoubtedly in the middle of a very dark period. It will take patience, strength, kindness, intelligence and hard work for us all to get through the next several weeks and beyond. At times like these it is often the children who feel it the most. With all the changes in their schedules and now being forced into more screen time and online learning than ever, they need to feel connected to the sport and teams they love. They need some sort of release.
We have shared on the ENYYSA website, www.enysoccer.com, a number of videos that give kids things to do on their own with a ball and have also included a player handbook which has lots of individual and pair exercises (where Mom or Dad can feed a ball) to keep the youngsters connected to the game they love. Whether it be the exercises we have shown or ones that you have found online with mypersonalfootballcoach.com or another resource what is essential is that kids get out and play!
For many years, the coaching community has bemoaned the fact that kids do not go out in the backyard and play, invent individual or partner activities that they can do with a ball. Now is a great time for all parents and coaches to promote kids going out in the yard and experimenting with a ball. Our handbook includes individual programs on aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, flexibility, strength and conditioning through plyometrics and even some sports psychology exercises based around imagery that older players can work on.
With most of us on lockdown, it is essential that we find ways for our kids to play, be active and stay connected. I can think of no better way of doing this that spending time with a ball. Challenge your kid to invent soccer-related activities that they can video and share with their friends, set juggling challenges where they record scores over a week and track progress. I encourage all coaches to be proactive in helping their players design programs and finding ways to create fun competitions within their teams.
We have to find a way to come out of this stronger and better than we were, and one real plus would be thousands of kids discovering the benefits and enjoyment they can have by playing independently in the yard. Imagine if we can make this the new norm!