Get Active: Soccer
Learn the basics
By Bonnie Schiedel
If you're a soccer-mom-in-training, you'll be happy to hear about the perks of this fun sport for children and parents alike. "Anyone can play - kids don't require a lot of equipment or special skills," says Carol Sistachs, a mom of five in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. "Plus, when we moved here three years ago, soccer was a great way to find a new network of people." Most importantly, playing soccer helps kids stay healthy and fit by boosting cardiovascular strength, balance and eye-foot coordination, says Sam Snow, the director of coaching education for US Youth Soccer in Frisco, Texas. And because most soccer games are played outside, your kids get lots of fresh air. No wonder youth soccer continues to grow in popularity! Here's what you need to know, from choosing the right kids' club, camp or league to getting the best uniform and shoes, a.k.a. cleats.
Learn the basics
Didn't play soccer when you were young? Join the club. A lot of parents aren't as familiar with the game as they are with, say, football or softball. You may be surprised to learn, for example, that kids can start playing soccer as young as age three. Obviously, children under six are just beginning to learn basic soccer skills, and it's more about running around with the ball. "We play games like 'red light, green light,'" says Julie Greenberg, co-director of the SoccerKids USA program in Los Angeles, California. "For the three year olds, green means start dribbling and red means put your foot on the ball to stop it. For slightly older kids, it means change direction. The point is to have fun and instill a love of the game."
Guidelines vary according to which soccer organization you belong to, but the size of the ball and the field, the number of players on the field and the length of time played all increase as kids get older. (Read up on the rules of your league - most have websites or handouts - or check out a soccer book from the Baffled Parents series published by International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press.) Kids younger than eight generally don't have goalkeepers, while kids 10 and up do. "Twelve-year-olds and older kids are able to understand and remember plays and strategy," notes Snow.