The vast majority of young children will participate for the following reasons:
Having Fun: There can be little doubt that at this age the main aim for the child is to have fun. If they are having fun they will be motivated to listen and to learn. If they are not having fun they will simply not want to play and may not want to attend soccer practice again. This has clear implications for the style of session that we deliver for the children. Surely our primary aim is to keep the children interested for as many years as possible and to impart a love of the game. We do this through exciting and stimulating practices.
Being with Friends: The social benefits of soccer cannot be overestimated. In this environment the children make new friends and can develop their relationship with established friends through a common interest. Often the presence of friends and the opportunity to interact is more important than the game itself. This is sometimes difficult for adults to remember despite the fact that games such as golf often provide a similar outlet.
Excitement of Competition: There are many exciting games in this book for the children to enjoy. There is an element of competition in each of them, which will without doubt motivate the children to participate enthusiastically. However, the coach will play a very important role in shaping the children’s attitude towards competition. An important lesson for children to learn is how to cope with winning and losing. Therefore, the way the coach reacts to the winners and losers of different activities will be noticed and absorbed by the children. If winners get a big high five and the losers are ignored what are they to conclude? This is especially the case if it is the same children winning and losing each time.
Learn and Improve Skills: This might not be the initial factor that motivates the children to play. However, within a short period of time many of the players will acquire a ball and take enough interest to start practicing various skills at home. They take pleasure in mastering skills that they have been taught so that they can show their family, coach and friends a level of competence. The positive reinforcement that follows improvement further encourages this development. It is crucial that the coach considers these factors when planning and delivering a session. If the children are improving, having fun and keep coming back to play soccer then the coach must be succeeding. This should be our yardstick!