My first experience with youth soccer


We signed my four-year-old son up for soccer this fall.  The season consists of 4 practices and 4 games.  (In case you’re keeping track at home, that’s 8 snack opportunities.)  I didn’t play soccer growing up and I don’t know much about the game other than you score by kicking the ball in the goal, and you’re not supposed to touch the ball with your hands.

With my extensive background knowledge established… Here are some of my random thoughts from the first preschool soccer game I’ve ever watched:

There are three types of preschool soccer players:

  • The enthusiasts, who run after the ball and try to kick it further in the direction that it’s already going, no matter which team’s goal they’re headed towards.
  • The clumsies, who get the basic idea of what they’re supposed to be doing but are constantly tripping over the ball, another player, or their own feet.
  • The clover pickers, totally oblivious that a soccer game is going on around them.

Is there always one kid that looks like he could be a professional soccer player?  Seriously – I think that little dude is more coordinated than I am.

Are cookies and juice boxes really necessary after a 20 minute game?  Or after wandering around the field haphazardly for a 30 minute practice? (I’m totally that mom who is bringing apples, cheese sticks, and water bottles from to the game this week.  Although I may have to redeem myself with hot chocolate if its going to be as cold as predicted.)

It is really awesome to see all the preschool dads try to help coach these kids.

Apparently I am a sidelines yeller.  But I promise that I am encouraging, not mean!  And I’m mostly concerned with making sure that our team is kicking the ball towards the correct goal!

You spend a kid’s whole life teaching him to share and not take other people’s toys, then all of a sudden it’s okay — encouraged even! — in sports.  My son was SHOCKED when I told him it was okay to steal the ball!

Any tips on teaching soccer to a four-year-old?  Am I a meanie for not bringing cookies and juice for snacks?  Please tell me I’m not the only one who gives their kid lots of “vocal encouragement” during their games!


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45 thoughts on “My first experience with youth soccer

  1. Loved this- thanks for the giggle. There may be one more type of player: the little person who seems to be slightly behind the action but generally following the action…until the ball comes anywhere near them. Then the panic and either run away or freeze! That was Julie! Bethany’s brief career involved more time on the turf than upright but her smile from being in uniform and on the team healed all the bruises!

  2. Ah, soccer snacks. I swear they are more politically loaded than PTA meetings! I’m totally the healthy snack mom too, and I have no qualms about copying what other parents have done earlier in the season if it’s a good idea 🙂 Last week the snack on my youngest’s team was donut holes and an orange slice. I loved watching the 4 and 5 year olds look from one hand to the other as they debated which to eat first and then go straight for the donut!
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  3. There are many books out there now. My husband has been playing and coaching for years and had his “A” coaching license and taught national coaching classes, coached at colleges. If he had been a teacher, he probably would have made coaching a big part of his income.
    It is a big part of our lives and 3 of our kids lives- a passion.
    For your little guy, make sure he loves it and has fun. In any youth sport, parents and coaches can be brutal. Like living thru their kid!
    Have so much fun with it! My husband, myself, and our boys have met so many lovely families.
    We are heading to Stony Brook University early this afternoon for our Sean’s soccer game ! Playing and loving a sport is a nice thing. Endorphins, camaraderie, etc.
    Love, SMD’s Momma

  4. I’m a healthy soccer snacker too, although thank goodness we don’t do snacks for practices, just games. Somehow our park board thought it would be a good idea for 3-4 year olds to play games that are almost an hour. Yes, you read that right. And this saturday we have a double header, back to back. (Heaven help us). Our team turns into not only clover pickers, but they just start laying down in the field towords the end of the game. I may join this this week. (I’m the coach). 🙂

  5. i’m with you on the HEALTHY snacks instead of sugar and junk. whenever my little cousins come over to my house and they ask for snacks, i give them an array of options of fruits, veggies, yogurt etc with either milk or water and they’re all ummm….do you have [insert garbage food here].

    i’m that naggy mom yelling at kayla to pay attention to the coach. she’s not in soccer but gymnastics and i swear, she runs her mouth more than she runs her body so i have to tell her PAY ATTENTION TO THE COACH!! all the damn time!!
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  6. My step-brother played soccer when he was about 4 and I thought it was hilarious. They would play games next to other games and sometimes they started playing in the wrong field, plus the kids picking flowers. It was all adorable.

  7. Hehe, the “clover pickers” totally cracked me up! We have not signed up our son for any organized sports so I’m learning from you what to look out for. I’d totally call from the sidelines if my kid was going in the wrong direction. At least I’m not yelling obscenities like you hear parents, who end up on the news, doing. Hope he has fun this season!
    lisacng @ recently posted…Picture Practice: buildingMy Profile

  8. Ah, yes. I had to make myself just not do anything but cheer, because I feared I’d just be shouting instructions the entire game. (I have a clumsy clover picker. It’s quite the mix!)
    Healthy snacks are great!! I’m with you, though: Do they actually even need a snack? Really? But whatever. And most of the kids seem to enjoy the fruit, especially at this age.
    That having been said, I don’t care if they get a junky snack, either. My kids have never finished a Gatorade in their life, anyway.
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  9. I’m excited about soccer next spring for our (then) 3 year old! I went to a friend’s son’s game last spring, and it was so fun to watch them run around.

    I am TOTALLY with you on the snack thing. I think culturally we need to rethink everything being based around food (every holiday, party, practice, reward, etc.), although I definitely love to eat:) A 20 minute physical activity just doesn’t warrant another snack, which will often ruin the next meal depending on timing. Plus once you start offering snacks you get into people offering 3 year olds things like Gatorade (which a lot of people object to), peanut products (allergy issues then arise), and junk food that a lot of us try to reserve for special occasions. And goodness knows there’s plenty of special occasions without every game and practice counting as one!

    • I bet you guys will have a great time with soccer next spring. At this point, my 4yo is so energetic that I am extremely excited about any opportunity for him to run around and burn off some energy.

    • Luckily I am not trying to coach them — I would have no clue! (Although my brother in law has pointed me to a website called footy4kids — how cute is that?)

    • Yes, it’s just one of a million conversations I could never have imagined I’d be having before i had kids! They drive me crazy sometimes but they’re so hilarious, I think I’ll keep them. =)

  10. Ainsley played as your 1st option, but hated it. She was hit by the ball to often. We only did snacks at games. We brought Gatorade, water and raisins. Water was not popular.

    • Ooh — raisins! That’s a good idea! Our water wasn’t very popular either, but luckily not too many kids showed up for the game we were supposed to bring snacks to, so I didn’t have to disappoint too many kids.

    • I was mostly hoping to avoid a meltdown if someone stole the ball from him! But I figured, fairs fair, so I might as well tell him it’s okay if he can take the ball from someone else. 🙂

  11. I’m dying at your three types of soccer players but you are so right! LOL! We always laugh at the need for refreshment as well, especially when they seem to stop for water breaks every 2 minutes. It makes it more fun I guess!
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  12. Sarah you are spot on about your observations! It is so fun to watch them attempt to play. I always thought they kind of look like that pack of dogs that ran around in circles in the old Looney tunes cartoons. But this preschool teacher strives to watch at least one of her students soccer games. (It always amazes me when they beg to come out because they are soooooo tired and then end up chasing each other on the sidelines!)

    • That is so awesome that you go to your students’ soccer games! I bet they love to see you there.
      I know what you mean about them claiming to be tired — Josiah is always begging for water halfway through the 10 minute half, but the rest of the day he goes nonstop!

  13. You’re not a meanie at all. I think it’s great that you’re not on the sugar & bad food bandwagon. But then again, I’m not a mom so maybe I don’t get an opinion. LOL. I played soccer my freshman & sophomore year in high school but ditched sports (track was the other) for my social life my junior & senior years. I also played my freshman year in college but again my social life won out. Now, I have no social life and I don’t play sports. HA!
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    • I think it’s funny that you ditched high school sports for your social life — they *were* my social life in high school! (I was a nerdy cross country kid.) I ran briefly for my college team but yeah, it was way too intense and I quit.

  14. I haven’t experienced this.. yet.
    I think I’d be someone who brings apple slices and cheese sticks! Not sure. And I probably would take photos instead of shout.
    I’m laughing at “clover pickers.” I played soccer when I was six and I was a total clover picker. Except when I scored a goal for the opposite team. Oops.
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    • I think scoring a goal for the opposite team is a requirement of preschool soccer. We don’t keep score so I’m not even sure the kids realize what they’ve done, but everyone on the sidelines kind of groans and laughs in unison.
      You would have a blast taking photos, I bet! I should steal my husband’s good camera for our next game.

  15. I had a problem with being vocal on the sidelines. I wasn’t mean or anything, nor did I yell instructions (because I have no idea what to do…) but I had been a cheerleader, so I wanted to yell. We had some “silent sidelines” days… I just didn’t go those days. I figured they were Daddy days. I was very frustrated by the extreme limitations on how much we could cheer. But I know that the rules are trying to keep parents from interfering, so I do understand where they are coming from. As it turns out, my daughter ended up more interested in singing, piano and theater, so it wasn’t a problem.
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    • Silent sidelines? That’s a new one for me, but I guess some people go overboard so they have to be strict with everyone.
      Clap your heart out at the end of those music and theater performances!

  16. Ha! I love your kid categories! And yes- there is always one that looks like a professional. In fact, there was a kid on my daughter’s very first team that we nicknamed ‘the professional’ and we still call him that, 6 years later! I find the whole snack thing really weird. I am the healthy snack mom too- my kids find it terribly embarrassing but the other kids don’t seem to mind at all! And I have to refrain from cheering because once I get started, I can’t stop!!
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    • It is fun — really low key, no score-keeping, everybody gets to play. I was hesitant at first but I’m glad we signed him up. We’ve also met some really nice families (mostly the parents of his friends from preschool) so that’s been good, too.

  17. Your kid categories are so on point. My daughter tried soccer a few times. It didn’t feel like her thing so we moved on. She plays tennis now and I am on the sidelines angling my body in the direction that she should move to ping the ball back to her opponent.
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  18. My son played for two seasons and he is definitely #3 The Clover Picker – he would just talk to me and be highly distracted. He’s not very competitive in THAT world – he IS in the world of video games. So when he told me he only enjoyed the practice I figured it was time to get him out haha. I think it’s good that you bring healthy snacks! Also, it’s just good to know where your child stands in the process – let him go at his own pace. My son enjoys video games so he’s now in a very basic programming class for kids to learn how to make them.. I figured if he’s going to be very serious about his video games in real life, I’m going to make it a profitable hobby. 🙂 Have a great one Sarah! -Iva
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  19. Ha! My son was the clover picker. My daughter is the pro soccer player. It’s weird to have two kids so different. I am definitely a yeller but try to keep it under control. And I really watch what I say to not be “coaching from the sideline.” We get in trouble from the coach for that stuff. I always brought pretzels and water or trader joes reduced sugar juice. Even with the older kids playing for an hour, I don’t see the need for snacks. Everyone has a water bottle and is going home after the game.
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