Monday, June 30, 2014

Getting soccer into your school

For your back-to-school list in September.

A nice addition to my soccer life has been involvement in festivals for elementary schools.  I've had the pleasure of delivering three and helping out a bit with a fourth.

Too many of our young athletes only play their desired sport when the formal session are organized.  Sometimes when I get a pickup game going at a school I hear questions like "throw-in or kick-ins?" "Where is the box?" "What's out of bounds?" "They have one extra player!".  We want them to realize that you don't need a board of directors and a formal schedule for a sport to happen.

Simple rules of pick-up sports:
  • All you need for a game is a friend and a ball
  • There is always enough room for a game
  • There is always enough room for another player
  • Call your own fouls
  • The game ends when the sun goes down (if you have no street lights)
Back to school ....

Summaries of our festivals  at schools in Niagara:

A good friend Joe Abbruscato and his wife Jenny organized a day of soccer at their children's school that involved an hour of soccer activities then each grade was left on their own to have a game.  I was thankful to be able to step in a bit on that one and observe how they were doing it. They did the legwork to gather enough equipment and organized everything perfectly.   At their disposal was a perfect venue as the local club's complex is their school's back yard.  Joe is a coach in Niagara Falls and every activity he organized worked well.  sssshhhhh. Joe doesn't know this yet, but we are going to team up to deliver a festival at a common friend's school in Niagara Falls when the school year kicks up.
"... EVERYBODY does have the ability to bring soccer to their children's school."
A festival was recently held in London at the German Canadian's 80th anniversary.  Here is a video of that event:

And here is the festival organized during our FIFA Grassroots workshop at the Ontario Soccer Association , June 2013

The festivals are fun and provide an opportunity to immerse the school and children in soccer for a short time.  But is it the only tool available?  Definitely not.

Everybody doesn't have the equipment, resources and time to deliver a mass festival, but EVERYBODY does have the ability to bring soccer to their children's school.  You don't need to be a certified soccer coach or even own one of those flags for your car.  And, let's be honest, there are so many schools that it's not feasible for a small group of people to be expected to deliver festivals at every school.

What can you do?
  1. Gather with a few other families and buy your child's class a set of pop up goals and a few balls to use at recess.  They'll figure out the rest.
  2. Provide your teacher with any spare balls of any kind that you might have at home.
  3. If you are a coach, offer an after-school program for 5-10 sessions for anybody interested.
  4. If you are a teacher, allow the Grade 8s to organize and deliver a fun, intramural type activity for younger grades.  The Grade 8s have absolutely amazed me over our festivals and are ready to do this kind of thing.
  5. If you are a teacher, contact your local club or a friend who coaches to see if they can come do a few phys-ed classes themed on soccer.
  6. Fail any student who doesn't like soccer . OK, you can't do that, but I just wanted to see if you read this far :)
  7. Hosting a festival is still a great event to enage the school population.
Friends who teach tell me that if you leave sports equipment open and available in your class, it gets used.  My friend teaches high school phys-ed and eats his lunch in the gym with the equipment room open.  The gym is BUSY.  As a parent, ask your teacher what they would find valuable that would help the students stay active outside.

Before you do anything or invest time in any research for something bigger than a ball donation,  make sure the principal knows as they are they are responsible for everything happening at school and everybody coming on and off the property.

P.S.  Feel free to get your teachers some basketballs, volleyballs and footballs too.