Building Champions

ROY BLUNT YMCA OF BOLIVAR- Referee Isaac McCay coaches five and six year-old soccer players throughout the soccer match.

“Okay, who hasn’t had a turn to kick it? Okay, Levi, you’re going to kick it. How many times do you get to kick it? That’s right, one time.” “Is everyone behind the white line? Check your toes; everyone should be behind the white line.”

And on he goes for the entire match. He instructs. That’s right; at the Y we do developmental sports. Developmental sports are for learning, exploring and sometimes just for sampling. Since cognitive, motor and social developments vary from child-to-child, developmental sports are a great place to start your child.

In Bolivar we also have a program called Pop Flys. It is offered to three and four year-olds as summer baseball/softball. Instead of one team competing against another team, all the kids play together and a paid staff person leads the instruction. It sounds something like this:

“Does anyone know where first base is? Okay, Kate, run to first base. Kate’s right! Let’s all run to first base!”

They learn to run the bases and swing a bat and throw the ball--all skills that three and four year-olds can accomplish. It’s a time when they are ready to marry their motor skills with their psychological skills. They spend the season getting ready to compete in a real game on the last night.

Developmental sports could be described as pre-competitive sports. A lot of the kids that complete our programs are prepared to graduate to competitive team sports because we devote time to creating well kids and lifetime athletes in place of only sports specialists. We have adaptations such as duration of games and practices, avoidance of position specialization and changing the focus of the activity to fun instead of winning or losing.

Sometimes we keep score, but not until the kids learn the fundamentals of the sport. No first place trophy is given, but remember, they didn’t know the location of first base.

There is a time and place for competitive sports and it varies from child to child. Our view is that sometime around age seven or eight kids have developed a strong motor skill base and the emotional intelligence required for competition. Jumping in too early can cause them to drop out due to frustration or hinder talent development because at higher-level leagues, some kids have to sit on the bench to ensure a win for the team.

Referee Isaac McCay laughs and celebrates with the soccer players on both the soccer teams and educates them along the way.

“Allie, your team needs you to raise the ball above your head and throw it over there. Here, practice what you will do. Great throw! Okay, let’s do it for real this time.”

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