Toddler Soccer

Daphne, having a ball at Hummingbird Soccer in Beachwood, June 11, 2017. (Photo © 2017 Matthew Ginn)

So last summer, we signed Daphne up for a few weeks of soccer with one of her friends at a school not far from home. We didn’t have particularly high expectations for her, being just 3 years old and the product of two not-particularly-athletic parents. Nevertheless, DVG usually enjoys being around people and doing things with other kids, and so we thought she’d enjoy it.

We bought the requisite shin pads and socks, packed a water bottle and snack, slapped on sunscreen, threw a couple lawn chairs in the back of the car, and drove off to the field with great anticipation.

Needless to say, Daphne was less than thrilled by the experience, and we were rather disappointed too—not because she didn’t like soccer, but because the program was so disorganized and/or poorly implemented.

It started with the shirts, which were distributed at the first game. To be fair, Daphne was among the youngest and smallest on her team. But you would think that a program for 3- to 5-year-olds would be able to find shirts that would fit someone smaller than a third grader.

Second, the coaches appeared to have no training or experience working with anyone younger than 10. There were no introductions or ice breakers or anything to give the kids an idea of what a team was or who was on theirs. There were four teams in the program, with coaches and pairings that rotated every week, so the kids never really connected with their leaders. And the drills were way beyond the ability of all but the oldest, most athletic kids in the program. Daphne couldn’t stand on one foot while holding the wall at the time, how was she supposed to put her foot on top of a ball, roll it back and forth, then switch to the other foot?

The worst thing, though, were the “scrimmages” held in the last 15 minutes of each week. With no concept of strategy, passing, or teamwork I expected to see swarms of kids from both teams chasing the ball around the field. I did not expect to see swarms of parents chasing their kids at the same time. It was the most egregious display of helicopter parenting I have ever seen. About a quarter of the parents were respectful and remained on the (ambiguous) sideline. The rest, though, remained within about 6 feet of their children, filming the action, waving their arms, and exhorting their little Peles and Ronaldinhos not to run in the wrong direction. It was ridiculous. And there was no push-back from the coaches whatsoever. As for the poor kids who were stuck in the nets, they were given no guidance at all as to their mission. When the ball came towards them, they naturally moved out of the way, to the great, loudly expressed dismay of their parents.

After the first week, Daphne spent an increasing proportion of her time sitting on her ball or watching from the sidelines with us. With our upcoming move, we won’t be around to participate in this program again, but even if we were, I’m pretty sure we would have found a better way to spend $90.