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Whidbey’s future soccer stars build skills while having fun
LANGLEY — Professional soccer coaches, such as those competing for the World Cup in South Africa this week, probably don’t have to deal with show stoppers like this.
As coach Ian Cuddy of the Kidz Love Soccer program at the Sports Complex in Langley tried to get his seven students to engage in some specific goal-kicking skills on Saturday, Lily Chavira turned away from the action and ran up a nearby hill.
The 4-year-old found her parents just in time to share a dramatic development.
It was time for a “potty break,” she said.
Like, right now.
Still, it was just another day for Cuddy, who teaches a series of soccer classes for the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District designed to help children learn the basics while building self-esteem through participation and fun activities.
Activities such as “stampede,” where Cuddy pretends he’s a steer running the gauntlet, and each child must try to hit him in the legs with the ball. Some succeed, some don’t, while a few gaze off in the distance at the parks’ nearby playground equipment.
“At this age, we try to have fun, be social and instill a few of the game’s fundamentals,” Cuddy said. “There’s no pressure, so the kids can enjoy a little structured play.”
The idea is to encourage large motor-skill development through fun soccer games while introducing small children to a group setting.
Cuddy started the morning with “blast-off,” an exercise wherein each kid took a running start, then hit the ball in an attempt to knock down some plastic obstacles.
Knocking stuff down — they loved doing that.
Later, the object was to imagine their favorite animal. If they successfully struck their coach in the leg with a well-placed kick, he had to pretend to be that animal.
So by turns Cuddy transformed himself into a penguin, hippopotamus, monkey, unicorn and elephant, waving his arms and emitting the requisite animal noises.
The kids loved that, too.
But despite frequent water breaks and high fives from parents, after 20 minutes, keeping his charges amused began to wear thin. Cuddy had to call a few time-outs — basically having the kids sit on their soccer balls — but soon enough, they were back at it.
Next up was a game to gladden the heart of any soccer fan — scoring a goal. Each child scrambled to kick the ball to the coach; he kicked back and the kids proceeded to aim and fire; the purpose being to score a point for the team.
They really got into the spirit of the exercise and did pretty well, considering. Maybe their success had to do with their low center of gravity, being only 3 or 4.
Learning to follow instructions in a nurturing age-appropriate environment, skill demonstrations and non-competitive instructional scrimmages all contributed to the learning process.
Watching closely on the sidelines, parent Jenna Colburn of Greenbank said she’s happy to drive her son Wyatt all the way to Langley.
“He’s learned sportsmanship and how to work with other kids,” she noted. “That’s priceless.”
The soccer program’s motto is, “Where the score is always fun to fun,” and judging by the response of the kids and their parents, that goal has been reached.
And maybe someday, if all goes well, the sport will have another budding superstar take to the field with dreams of World Cup glory.
“I’d like to be a soccer player when I get older,” said Taylor Pitts, 4. “I really have fun doing it.”
For details on parks athletic programs for young people, call 221-5484 or visit www.swparks.org.