Soccer, also known as Football around the world, is growing in popularity. In the United States kids everyday are signing up with either AYSO soccer organizations or US Youth soccer clubs. It’s a crazy life running kids from one soccer practice to another, traveling to games on the weekend, working kids soccer drills at home in the backyard, signing up for soccer lessons and summer camps. The list goes on. But the many benefits outweigh the crazy life being a soccer mom can bring. So get ready to load up that “soccer mom car” and come along for the ride.
The Many Benefits of Soccer
I didn’t know a lot about soccer until my oldest decided to play. I never watched or followed it. Also, playing it wasn’t something I did as a kid nor was it popular at the time. But now I love the sport and see that it has many benefits for youth and others who try it.
One of the benefits of playing soccer, taking soccer lessons, attending soccer camps, learning kids soccer drills, or whatever you decide to do is physical activity. In today’s world, you commonly find youth planted behind some electronic device. So playing and running around is on the decline. But soccer is a sport that changes that. It gets kids up and running, which is good for them physically and mentally.
Another benefit is learning the art of teamwork. Kids inherently are self-absorbed. Yes, there are the exceptions and I’m not saying kids are bad. But who doesn’t remember their toddlers fighting over toys and having to teach them to share? Soccer is a team sport. As I’ve watched my kids play the game I’ve seen many talented youth players, but none can win the game by themselves. So kids learn how to play as a team.
Some other soccer lessons my kids have learned through the years (and benefits of the game) are different kids soccer drills to make them better players, how to lose and win graciously, and how to make a commitment to something and go after it. It’s also a great way to spend time as a family which is why it is part of my list of Family Game Night Ideas.
So how did this all start for my family and why do I continue turning my van into a “soccer mom car”, encouraging them to learn different kids soccer drills, having them take soccer lessons through camps, and letting them dream about becoming a star player?
The Start to Our Soccer Lives
My oldest who is our one that absolutely loves playing the game of soccer is a 5th grader. Our crazy soccer lives began, in a sense, when she was going into Kindergarten. She had come to us and asked to sign up to play soccer with a local US Youth Soccer club. That year we said “no”. She was only 5 and already was playing softball, starting school, in Girl Scouts, and going to church night. It was a lot for that age so we said no more.
Fast forward a year, she asked to try soccer again. At that point, I began asking some questions. I inquired about why she wanted to play and her answer was, “Because I’m good, mom”. I was skeptical but we agreed to sign her up for just the fall. Well, she was right. She was good. And the rest is history.
After that 1st fall, she was in love with the sport. She has played both recreational ball and competitively ever since. Now we are busy with soccer 12 months of the year with about 2 months off in the winter. It’s crazy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Soccer Gear That is Required by the AYSO Soccer and US Youth Soccer Organizations
Once we decided to sign up our kids up for soccer the fun began, as well as the craziness of buying soccer gear, going to practices, loading up my soccer mom car to head to games here and afar. But let’s start with the required gear.
Whether your child chooses to play soccer with AYSO Soccer or US Youth Soccer there are a couple pieces of equipment that are necessary: A soccer ball and shin guards.
This might be the obvious one of the day. In order to play, they must have a soccer ball. To get better at soccer they need to have the ball at their feet on and off the field. They can’t do this if they only have access to them at team practice and games. Also, speaking as a soccer coach (yes, my husband and I coached one year of soccer), it is necessary to run the many kids soccer drills out there. And if your kid decides to take soccer lessons of some sort they will need their own ball. Soccer balls come in 3 main sizes depending on your child’s age. Microsoccer-U6 use size 3 balls, U8-U12 use size 4 balls, and U13 and up use size 5 balls.
Shin Guards are a mandated piece of equipment by AYSO soccer, US Youth Soccer, and the International Soccer organizations. Kids must have proper shin guards or they are not allowed to practice or play the game. Sizes will depend on your child’s size.
Don’t take this one lightly. As coaches, we had an issue with this one and I had to turn a kid away from a game. I hated doing it and he was one of our better players, but he had shown up without shin guards so I couldn’t let him on the field. So don’t forget the shin guards.
And if you are wondering why AYSO soccer and US Youth Soccer require kids to wear shin guards during practice, soccer lessons, kids soccer drills, games and anytime they are playing to prevent life-threatening injuries. If a person gets kicked in the shins by a cleat it can cause a blood clot. And blood clots in the legs can be very dangerous.
Mom Recommended Soccer Gear
The two things I listed above, shin guards and balls, are a must in soccer. However, there are several things I’d recommend you invest in if your child plans to play soccer. So I wanted to share those with you from the soccer lessons I have learned over the past several years. Get ready to load that new soccer mom car with the gear to make games and outings enjoyable.
This one almost could have been listed above, but depending on your club rules and what shin guards you buy, you may be able to get by without these. But they really are a necessity, even if you are not required to buy them. Soccer socks help keep shin guards in place. And if you have the shin guards that just slip into a sleeve or sock they are even more important.
Another highly recommended item is soccer cleats. Cleats give your kids traction in the grass when they are running. Soccer requires a lot of quick changes and movement so having good footing is vital. Whether your kids are playing in a game, doing one of any number of kids soccer drills, taking soccer lessons, or practicing they will appreciate having a pair of cleats. One word of caution, don’t try and use softball, baseball or football cleats for soccer. They are not allowed unless you cut the toe cleat off.
Foldable Utility Wagon
You may be saying “my kid is only going to play rec ball, so why do I need a wagon?” But, believe me, they are worth every penny. The first year my daughter played we didn’t have anything like this and every game we were lugging chairs, balls, water, blankets and more by hand. Then we noticed others pulling wagons and we jumped and got one. It was one of the best pieces of equipment we bought.
Lawn Chairs/Bag Chairs
Most people already have some sort of lawn or bag chair, but if you don’t I’d recommend picking one out. Most soccer complexes don’t have bleachers so this will give you a place to sit and watch your kid play.
Water Bottle or Jug
Another common sense item but my recommendation here is a little bit larger “water holder” than you are used to. We would give our daughter the typical water bottles and it would only last her half a game. So we invested in a jug which has worked much better. Just keep in mind they might be running hard for 30 or 40 minutes.
If you decide to do a competitive team and your child makes the team, I would recommend you invest in a nice cooler. You may find yourself out of town for games and tournaments and probably won’t want to eat out all meals. Plus some games fall right at lunch or dinner time so you will want to pack some healthy snacks.
Soccer is played in almost every season. You will want to be ready for hot, sunny days. Pack the sunscreen, umbrellas for shade, bug spray, and sunglasses.
On the flip side, you may find yourself watching a soccer game in the freezing cold. The coldest games I’ve sat through was a tournament my daughter played in. It was like a whopping 10 degrees outside. Now I’m not trying to scare anyone off. Soccer is a great sport, but round up some blanket, hot hands, hats, and gloves if you live in areas that get cold.
First Aid Kit
Not to sound negative, but I’d recommend having a basic first aid kit with you. Every now and then I’ve seen kids fall and scrape knees or even roll an ankle when playing. So having an ACE wrap, bandaids, and even an ice pack along just in case is a good idea. Soccer, like any sport, is not exempt from injuries.
So now that you know what gear to get to load up that soccer mom car, let’s talk a bit about the difference between recreational and competitive soccer.
Recreational or Competitive Soccer? What’s The Right Choice of Teams
When we first signed our daughter up to play soccer we signed up with a local club that only played recreational ball. She played rec soccer only for the first 2 years, after that she also began playing competitive soccer. Both types of teams are all about developing the soccer player, which is key. They both offer games, practices, practical soccer lessons, kids soccer drills, and team experiences. However, there are several differences between recreational soccer and competitive soccer.
Whether you choose an AYSO soccer club or US Youth soccer club, r
If your child chooses to play Rec ball, they will still learn all the soccer lessons, kids soccer drills, and fundamentals taught in competitive ball. And they will be playing in games to keep it fun and interesting.
Rec soccer also stays more local usually. Our club formed teams for each age division and we just played those teams. We just had to load up the soccer mom car and travel to fields in our city, not a distant location. This made it very handy.
Another aspect of Recreational soccer is the price point. It generally costs less than competitive teams do, just in sign-up fees.
Competitive soccer clubs are your traveling teams. They still focus a huge amount of time developing youth into soccer players through kids soccer drills, soccer lessons, winter training, games, and tournaments.
However, competitive teams are meant to be just that, competitive. Kids are not necessarily guaranteed equal playing time. The best players may be on the field the whole game while those not quite as good may sit the bench most of the time.
Another difference is competitive soccer teams travel. These teams usually travel to neighboring cities and even states to play games and tournaments. You may find yourself loading up the “soccer mom car” every week to travel to a game. While it’s well worth it, expect to have more of your weekends and possibly weekdays taken up with the crazy mom soccer life.
Finally, finances are different between the two. It generally costs substantially more to be on a competitive team. Depending on the club you could pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for your kid to be on one of these teams. So it doesn’t come cheap, but being on a more elite team with better players may challenge your son or daughter into becoming a better player themselves.
So whether you sign your kids up for recreational soccer or competitive soccer comes down a little to personal preference, finances, and your child’s skills. Frankly, we’ve had great experiences on both.
The Battle of Positions
When my daughter started playing soccer it was like a crash course of learning the sport myself. Then after watching and learning for a couple years my husband and I coached a year of recreational ball. So we gained the first-hand experience of teaching girls different postions through various soccer lessons and kids soccer drills, while seeing the disappointment when they didn’t get to play exactly where they wanted. This included our own daughter too.
Now, mind you, they played hard no matter where we put them but you could tell what positions they liked to play most.
On a soccer field, you will find forwards, midfielders, defenders, and a goalie. Then there are different positions of each of those depending on the “area” of the field they should be covering.
So what happens when your child doesn’t get to play the positions they really want to? Do you go to the coach demanding they let your child play the position they want? Should you find a different club that will develop your child in the position they love? No! You should find a club when they are young that will encourage them to try all the different positions on the field. The only one I’ve never asked someone to play without their willingness is goalie.
Players are better and more rounded if they are good at all positions on the field. What if your child wants to play in high school or college? They are a star forward but can’t play anything else. Their school may already have enough forwards so your child wouldn’t have a team to play on without moving schools.
So don’t let your kids battle you on not getting to play where they want to. Encourage them to embrace playing all the positions on the field. You never know what it could result in.
The Art of Winning and Losing
This is probably the most difficult of all soccer lessons, or any sport for that matter. Teaching a person to win and lose graciously is difficult and takes time.
My own kids and I aren’t exempt from this. For a competitive person losing isn’t easy. But at some point in life, everyone does. It’s how you deal with the loss that matters. Will you get bitter, angry, and defeated? Or will you rise up, learn from your mistakes, and keep trying? One way you will remain a loser and the other you may become a winner.
So for my own daughter losing is difficult. She is very competitive like me. So when the game isn’t going in her team’s favor you can see it in her attitude. That is something she is working on. I’m encouraging her to stay in the fight and not give up. To find the positives in her performance and learn from the negatives.
On the flip side, when she comes away with a win I want her to celebrate. But it needs to be done in a respectful way. Smiles, pictures, hugs, those are all ok. What I don’t want to see is her gloating or talking down about how good she is and that the other team or teammates just aren’t that good. Because you never know what can happen in the next game. So teaching her to win and enjoy it, but not gloat is a big goal of my own.
The Lessons of Soccer
By playing soccer, lessons in life are learned. As I have talked about all through this article, kids gain valuable physical activity in our ever-increasing digital age, they learn to be a teammate, and they learn how to win and lose graciously.
According to Kimberlee Leonard, Founder of Single Mommy Tribe,
“Sports give kids a way to learn to compete, deal with success and disappointment. It also provides great role models through coaches and team leaders.”
It isn’t just about kicking a ball around the field. Soccer’s about developing an athlete, and more importantly, a person.
So get out there and sign your kids up for an AYSO soccer club or US Youth Soccer club. Even if they don’t play professionally they will still reap many benefits from their time on the field.
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