8 Benefits of Soccer for Toddlers

Last spring, Liam joined Soccer Shots, a wonderful soccer program for little ones between the ages of 2-8. We chose Soccer Shots because of how professional they are (every coach must complete a comprehensive training program, are routinely evaluated, and are selected not only based on their soccer abilities, but also ability to engage and inspire students), and because we loved their emphasis on character development and skill building. The coaches strive to not only teach kids soccer, but also show them how fun it is, making a lasting impact on their relationship with sports.

As parents, we didn’t really know what to expect before the first session, and knew it would probably be funny to watch a bunch of two-year-olds learn the rules of a competitive team sport (and it was), but I was happy to discover that the lessons Liam learned in one season went way beyond basic soccer skills and drills. As most sports do, soccer shaped Liam’s character, and continues to do so.

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I love that the last class of each season is devoted to “awards”. Each player gets a medal, a pair of Soccer Shots sunglasses, and a thorough card that highlights his/her strengths and even a weakness to work on the following season. This totally blew me away because I realized how attentive the coaches had been all season. They immediately picked up on Liam’s vivid imagination and determination.

Beyond the fact that it is the most popular sport in the world, played internationally, here are 8 benefits of soccer for toddlers, and why I strongly encourage you all to introduce your child to a team sport at a a young age:

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The physical benefits go on and on: improving cardiovascular health, coordination, strength, flexibility… and all of this happens while your child runs around and has fun with his/her new friends!

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Soccer helps strengthen core muscles which in turn allows kids be more physically active and healthy.

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As a kid, I was “anti-competition” because of a traumatic judo competition I participated in. Basically, I was the only girl in my judo club and was put against boys that were way stronger and more advanced than I was. It felt unfair, and it took years for me to view competition as a fun thing, and not be terrified at the thought of it. When kids are introduced to team sports and competition at a young age, they are more motivated and driven, therefore often become more successful students and adults.

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Being an athlete requires a certain level of responsibility to yourself, your peers, your coaches… Without it, many athletic goals can never be achieved. Sports teach our children that they are held accountable for their actions and that they often affect more than just them.

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At Soccer Shots, a whole chunk of class is dedicated to letting each child score a goal of his/her own in front of everyone. The rest of the team cheers the player’s name while he make his way over to the goal. I love that! Liam beams with pride every time he scores, and I can just see it boost his self-esteem every time, making him more comfortable trying new things and opening up to his peers.

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Without teamwork, a team cannot be successful. This goes for every sport. Players must communicate to effectively work together, and being a good team player is a lifelong skill that cannot be introduced too early!

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Soccer demands a great deal of focus and awareness of your surroundings. I have definitely noticed that Liam has been more alert and attentive since he started soccer lessons. As we all know, though, toddlers have a limited attention span… luckily, Soccer Shots sessions are only 30 minutes long, the perfect amount of time for young children to not lose interest.

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Soccer requires quick thinking and responding, which improves a child’s cognitive flexibility. Soccer enhances visual-spatial awareness (the ability to visualize objects from different angles, for example) as well as problem solving skills.

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Since many of the skills Liam learns at soccer each week are brand new, we got him a fancy soccer ball and pop-up goals for our backyard. Every day, during the summer, we try to practice for a few minutes. Liam sometimes even asks to go outside and practice without us saying anything!

We love these portable, lightweight goals by Rukket Sports. They’re available in three sizes and are set up with an easy twist! Highly recommend.

To enroll your child in Soccer Shots this fall, click here!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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