Toddler Soccer School, The Experiences Of Joy Are Contagious - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

Toddler Soccer School, The Experiences Of Joy Are Contagious

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2019 4:11 pm | Updated: 5:37 pm, Fri Aug 30, 2019.

A toddler’s laughter is contagious. Remember the soft drink commercial with the toddler romping with puppies who kept jumping on him, licking him as if he had sugar painted over his entire body, and all the child could do was roll around and laugh uncontrollably? We laughed, too, every time we saw it. That is what happens when you observe toddler soccer school. Maybe you only smile, but the ecstasy of those 18-month to 2 ½ year-olds for the entire thirty class minutes lifts you for the day.

When my granddaughter invited me to accompany her to watch Jackson, 19 months old, at soccer school on Wednesday morning at Tidelands Park, my skepticism at the concept was obvious. My vision of grouping toddlers recalls Jerry Seinfeld’s quote: ”Having a 2 year-old is like having a blender that you don’t have the top for.” Jackson is a happy energizer bunny. While he is fairly sure-footed, he does not say many words, yet already knows he is in charge.

Of course, I accepted, then asked my granddaughter, “What do you hope he learns?” Afterall, the activity has “school” in the title. Her quick response was, “To follow directions.” My skepticism flared up again.

Only three toddlers were present that day for Mommy and Me soccer school, a parent participation class: Jackson, 2 year-old Dylan, and 2 ½ year-old David. The latter two had taken the previous 8-week class, and it was evident. They actually did follow directions most of the time. Jackson demonstrated progress by staying with the group and not running away. He made a few attempts at participating or playing with the items, but he had a great time.

The three toddlers were pictures of high energy, as was the coach, Karen Bland who is a mother of three boys, a MOB in her words. She never let a minute drag, changed activities about every three minutes, and guided the toddlers to accomplish the intended directions in some fashion, even if it meant picking them up and carrying them through the drill. She sang; she emphasized colors, numbers, and shapes; she had them cleanup the items from each activity. From songs about shoes, wheels, and being up, to placing a cone on the soccer ball and kicking the ball into the goal, to stepping on colored circles leading to a hurdle and a tunnel to crawl through, to waving ribbons on sticks, bursting soap bubbles, and stepping through hoops, the students were involved.

One of the last two activities was chasing an adult and grabbing the scarf which was hanging behind. Dylan and David knew their role. A colorful parachute ended the session. First was “Popcorn” where the adults and toddlers grab the edges and bounce the balls in the air. Next, the toddlers were encouraged to go under the parachute while parents lifted it, and finally Dylan and Jackson sat in the parachute as the adults and David walked in a circle turning them around. Throughout the session, the toddlers were smiling or laughing or hugging the coach.

I asked the parents what they expected their children to get out of the session. Besides “learning to follow directions,” they expanded the answer by adding, “Being outside, exercising, socializing, and having fun.” They were realistic enough to know that toddlers are too young to grasp the game of soccer; however, Coach Bland’s goal is to have them become familiar with soccer equipment and terms.

The Mommy and Me classes are not competitive. Neither are the classes for 3-ish to 4 and 4 to 6. Instead the classes lead to concentration on soccer drills and keeping the foot on the ball until it becomes automatic and “They do it by accident.” At 6 years old they advance to the competitive soccer leagues with an introduction to some of the skills and terms.

Coach Bland has found her niche at Little Rascalz Soccer School. After seven years as coach, she considers her job a “blessing in my life” and intends to continue for many more years. The school has 8-week sessions for 18-month-olds to 6-year-olds all over the county but only on Wednesday in Coronado.

It seems as if Coach Bland is fulfilling all the parents’ expectations since the toddlers were joyfully engaged every minute of the class. In the gallery watching the class that morning were additional parents, grandparents, and nannies who might be proponents of Fred Rogers’ definition of play. “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

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