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Soccer is the most popular game in the world. No matter where you go you will find people of all ages enjoying dribbling, passing, shooting and tending a soccer ball.
What is the appeal? Perhaps it is the speed of the game or the skill it takes to deliver the ball to the net. Whatever it is, this team sport draws more fans than all other sports combined.
You don’t have to be a player or a coach to teach your child how to play soccer. You need a ball, some sort of goal, and a general knowledge of some basic skills. What follows may inspire you to give it a try.
There are four basic skills in soccer:
These skills can be learned and practiced in the backyard or at a park. You will need a ball of the correct size for your child, shin guards, and something to function as a goal.
Children age 2 and up can begin to learn soccer. They will need a size 3 ball which generally weighs between 11 and 12 ounces with a circumference of 23 to 24 inches.
You will need to buy an official children’s soccer net or build one of two by fours. A goal can also be made of PVC pipe put together like a frame.
Teaching your child to dribble rather than kick the ball will take patience. Demonstrate the technique of moving the ball across the grass using various parts of the foot. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to cheer them on as it is hard work!
The next skill may be a little difficult for this age group, but 5 and 6 year olds should have less trouble. Ball control involves receiving the ball by stopping its movement. This is how a shot is set up or how a pass to a team mate is made. Gaining control of the ball is very important so that a better pass or shot can be made. Practice throwing or kicking the ball to your child so they can trap the ball with their legs or chest.
Shooting the ball involves power and accuracy which toddlers do not have yet. Teaching them that the object of the game is to get the ball into the net is enough for now. Technique can be taught later.
You can have a great deal of fun passing the ball back and forth. The exercise will do you both good and prepare your child for later lessons.
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Children ages 6 to 9 are ready to build on what they know and can do on the soccer field. Up to age 8, a size 3 ball will still do. After that, get a size 4 ball measuring 24 to 25 inches in circumference and weighing between 12 and 13 ounces. This size will last them until they are 12 or 13. Your child will need soccer shoes called cleats and shin guards if they plan to play on a team.
Having a real net is very helpful. Nets are available with targets to shoot at hanging from the net. Some have a sound that goes off when a goal is made.
When practicing with your young school age child focus on dribbling, ball control and shooting. Teach them to set up the ball before taking a shot or passing. Pass the ball to them and have them stop the ball, get in good shooting position and then shoot. This will keep them from wild attempts at shooting.
You should be able to find a kids’ team in your area. Most localities have teams for all age groups. If there is no team close by, you may want to become versed in the rules and start a team yourself.
Once on a team, your child will have regular practice with drills and eventually games. Your child will pick up the rules quite easily by playing.
Remember that your child is still considered a novice and so are the other members of the team. Cheer them on, but don’t complain about a bad shot or a lost game. There is a valuable saying- Praise loudly but whisper your complaints! You will help your child become a good sport by being an example of sportsmanship.
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Older school age children who have been playing for a few years are probably quite skilled. They will have developed a preference for a position and learned how to be part of a team.
If your older child has never played before but wants to learn, they will probably pick the game up fairly quickly. Take them to a soccer game or two so they can see what the game is all about.
Make time for practice a few times a week. Fifteen or twenty minutes per night is probably enough. Pass the ball back and forth, using stops to set the ball. Practice making shots at the goal from different distances and angles. Have your child dribble up and back to become more confident about moving the ball around.
If your child is interested in playing goalie, take different shots at the goal so they can get good at anticipating where the ball is going to be when it gets to them. Have them stand out a bit from the net which will give them better coverage.
Above all, keep it fun. Soccer can be a very intense game and tempers may flair. If you teach your child to get beyond momentary anger and disappointment they will play better and help their team mates’ performance, too.
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Resources that can help you in your venture include:
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