US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching Sam Snow talks about the four themes of Youth Soccer Month — Fun, Family, Friendship and Fitness — and the value of getting out and playing the game.
What is Street Soccer Day and why is it important?
Street Soccer Day is a day for teams in clubs across the United States to have a pick-up game on the same day as other youth players in the nation. That you and your team are having your kick-about at the same time as millions of other players in the nation is pretty cool. The goal of street soccer day is to give the game back to the players.
For you, what is the most fun aspect about soccer?
As a player, I really enjoyed the competition, testing one’s self against the best the other team had to offer. As a coach, it’s always enjoyable to see the light bulb go on for a player and then for it to begin to come together for a team. But whether I am participating as a player or a coach, the most fun derived from soccer are the relationships that are built. Through soccer I have many friendships that have lasted now for decades. I am fortunate to have friends in all levels of soccer in many parts of the world.
What is the importance of family to a young soccer player?
The support of the family to a youth soccer player is crucially important. A very young player needs to know that his or her parents love to watch them play. The older, more select level player needs the family being there for him or her through all of the ups and downs of outcome-based events. I hope that the families of all young soccer players will see their children’s participation in soccer as a gift from the family, not an investment.
How can youth soccer help a child build friendships and confidence?
The game can be a real confidence builder for youngsters as they begin to take on and then accomplish the challenges that soccer offers them. When they are lucky enough to get a really good coach who knows this truth then they really grow as people and as players. That truth for the coach is that they won’t care what you know until they know that you care. Friendships are built in the game by players who become teammates and then they share the wins, draws, losses and all of the emotions that come from the experience. The game is a shared life experience that clearly brings children together where new friendships are made.
What are the major fitness benefits of playing soccer?
It is well established in sports medicine that soccer offers great health and fitness benefits for a lifetime. Soccer is a lifetime participation sport, so the physical and emotional benefits can last well into late adulthood as one continues to play the game. Children playing soccer improve in both their physical and mental capabilities. When they are given good guidance by a knowledgeable coach they also learn good eating, drinking and sleep habits. They learn how to take care of themselves off the field in order to enhance their on-the-field performance.
How important is it for kids to be active?
Children need to be active to avoid poor health from having a sedentary lifestyle, which is a real concern for Americans. By being active while playing soccer, children will improve in their school performance, as a sound body does help to lead to a sound mind. Brain function does improve from being active, as the human body is designed to be active. Active kids grow in self-confidence. They have the opportunity to develop an open mindset. They learn conflict resolution skills. They learn how to both cooperate and compete with others. They learn punctuality and responsibility. They learn how to contribute to a group. They learn communication skills and how to lead. They learn how to set and achieve goals toward self-improvement. The possible life skills, as well as sport skills, that an active soccer player could learn and benefit from is a long list.