Soccer Start: Toddler Soccer Program Uses Games Not Drills
Posted by: Teddy Hagen | Soccer Start Program Director
The core of all Rapids Youth Soccer programs is long term player development. That development can start as early as 3 years old with our introductory toddler soccer program, Soccer Start. The goal of Soccer Start is to ensure that every player develops skills needed to lay the groundwork for a healthy, active life and successful soccer career. The game-centered coaching style and curriculum we use for our toddler soccer program engages the young players through fun, imagination, and guided discovery.
At 3- to 5-years old, the Soccer Start players are still very young. Typical drills used for our competitive teams would not connect with this age group, and they likely wouldn’t enjoy themselves. For this reason, we use fun and engaging games throughout the program. Many organizations back this style of coaching because it connects with toddler soccer players in a way that drills cannot. Players who are engaged and having fun will have a much high chance of understanding and implementing the skills they learn at a session.
Children in this age group are highly imaginative and hands-on learners, and the games we use to draw on these strengths. If you ask a toddler to dribble in and out of a set of cones over and over, they may “learn” dribbling, but it’s unlikely they will enjoy the sport. Imagine asking the player to pretend they are searching for Pokemon, and they must dribble around these cones to find them. We believe the player will be more excited about this creative activity. We want toddler soccer players to be excited! This will not only help them engage throughout the session and encourage them to practice the skills and games they are learning at home. At-home practice is key to a player’s development in the game of soccer and sets a foundation for habits that will benefit them on and off the field.
The Soccer Start program style of games helps players discover how to implement technical skills on their own. Our carefully constructed curriculum guides them to the correct techniques. Because the players realize the skills on their own, they latch onto these concepts in a way they can remember. Guided discovery also helps out players learn to think constantly throughout a session, building a habit to think constantly during a game. When learning drills, the coach is telling players exactly how to perform a skill, which doesn’t resonate with younger audiences.
These are just a few of the reasons why we believe so strongly in this game-centered style of coaching for our toddler soccer players. You will see this style of coaching at every Soccer Start practice. Each coach in the program is trained to work specifically with younger kids. These coaches encourage engagement at all sessions. To ensure that all coaching is correct, the Soccer Start Program Director is available at almost every session. Ultimately, this strategy allows our players to build a solid foundation in the game, and on a social, cognitive, emotional, and physical level.