What is the most fun thing about playing soccer?
That’s the question I set out to answer when I attended my local club’s house league kick-off day. As I stood at the front entrance of the indoor turf field, I could feel the excitement, anticipation, and anxiety in the air.
For some, it would be their rookie season. A season of firsts – first pass, first goal, first time being part of a team. For others, a summer tradition was beginning yet again. Regardless of prior experience, I wanted to know the surprising things that kids loved about soccer. And for the newbies, what were they looking forward to most?
Not so shockingly, scoring goals was the most popular answer across the board. And why wouldn’t it be? Scoring goals is the essence of soccer. But this shouldn’t be confused with winning, which accounted for only one answer during the entire day.
The reaction after a child scores their first goal is one of the most defining moments for me in the game. It’s pure joy. So I wasn’t surprised when so many children categorized scoring as the most fun part of soccer.
In close second, which initially puzzled me, was kicking the ball. Kicking is a fundamental movement skill in soccer, and one that can be difficult to learn. Most children first kick a ball using their toe, frequently called a “toe punt” in the soccer community.
However, kicking with the instep or “laces”, as I like to coach, requires considerable coordination and strength. It’s no wonder kids love kicking the ball once learned correctly, it’s a hard skill to master! And kicking sometimes leads to the best part of soccer: scoring.
These are two of the many fun things about playing soccer. Kicking the ball and scoring goals are essential parts of the sport, but not all reasons for playing have to do with the game. Getting a new jersey, bonding with teammates, and making up cheers are all parts of soccer that kids love.
It brings a new perspective to the saying, “Winning isn’t everything.” But oranges at half-time just might be.
Fun things about playing soccer (in no particular order):
- Running fast
- “My friends on my street are on my team”
- ‘Deking’ out players (fave move: nutmeg)
- “Being #5 like my brother”
- “The feeling you get when you score a goal”
- Half-time snack
- Meeting new people
- Playing defence
- “Scoring 100 goals”
- Dancing in the change room
- Goal celebrations
- “Playing goalie because I get to hold the ball”
- Teamwork and passing
- Learning new ‘moves’
- “My dad is my coach” / “My mom is my coach”
- “Playing again”
That’s the question a high school sophomore in Connecticut asked kids in youth leagues all over his town in an effort to update data in a 20-year old scientific study. How would you answer? What do you think was the top response kids — both boys and girls— gave this young researcher?
“At a time when sports tutors seem as plentiful as piano teachers and high school games are routinely nationally televised, Peter Barston has learned something important about youth sports,” this article begins:
The survey is a single page listing 11 reasons children might have for playing sports, including the laid-back (to have fun, to make friends) and the purposeful (to win, to earn a college scholarship). Like the Michigan State researchers, Barston instructed the Darien players to assign points based on the importance of the reasons for a total of 100.
From the mound of data he gathered, Barston found a striking pattern. No matter how he categorized the responses, the most important reason youngsters gave for playing sports was the same: to have fun. That was the top response from football and basketball players, from boys and from girls, and from players in each grade from fourth to eighth. In the basketball survey, 95 percent of boys and 98 percent of girls cited fun as a reason for playing, nearly twice the number who mentioned winning.
Students: Tell us what sports you play and why you play them. How important is winning to you? What do you think adults should understand about kids and sports? Since Mr. Barston hopes other kids will do similar surveys in their hometowns, how would you predict young players in your area would respond if they were asked?
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.