5 July 2023
Chasing and kicking a ball comes naturally to very young children. It’s so much fun to roll a ball backwards and forwards with them. Showing them how to dribble towards a goal and shoot is the next step even if it’s two jackets on the ground. You can exaggerate the moves and the joy of scoring until they are giddy with laughter. Showing them a few tricks and letting them practise will bring them great satisfaction. It’s a fun time with you in the fresh air so they won’t notice they are out of puff. Gradually, with your encouragement, their abilities will develop. It is so good for their co-ordination and cardio-vascular health.
The next step is to arrange for some of their friends to play with them. This means they can race for the ball or dodge around one another or play in teams. Praise them for effort and any skills they pick up dribbling, turning or passing the ball as well as scoring. When they are a little older and can go to the park together they will make the necessary time to practice, practice, practice. They can start structured football between the ages of 5-7. Being coached by older children or adults gives them someone to look up to and a mentor. They have somewhere to go every week where they are respected and feel supported.
Take your kids to a local match so you can watch a team play together and feel the excitement of the spectators. Just to see the different coloured shirts, hear the camaraderie and support a side is a huge deal for a kid. They see that there are rituals and procedures to be followed. People gather to watch their local team compete with a friendly rivalry with neighbouring communities. Explain the rules and what the referee is doing. Explain why everyone does not always agree.
Anything that develops their fitness and co-ordination will make it easier and more enjoyable for children on a football pitch. They might love cycling, swimming or basketball. Even martial arts help football players as they develop all-over flexibility and awareness of the body. Praise them for their efforts and for showing up, not just the results. Point out that participating and being out on the field with your mates is exhilarating in itself. Physical exercise and interacting with others in real life will be something they can rely on throughout their life.
You can watch matches on television together and follow a favourite team and a particular player. If possible take them to see a stadium match where the crowd brings so much atmosphere with cheering and singing. Seeing the almost tribal dedication to the team will make a big impression and give them something outside of themselves to dwell on as teenagers. If it’s a passion you share with them, it will bring you together whatever age they are.