For hundreds of parents around the country, soccer is the sport in which their small children had their first experience with organized sports. That is true locally as well, and most of us, at one time or another, have earned the honor of being a soccer mom or dad. Prior to the shutdown, on any given Saturday in the spring, soccer players of all ages would fill almost every available bit of open space at both Tidelands and Coronado Cays Park. Parents and siblings would be enjoying the action from the sidelines, perhaps engaging in a bit of armchair coaching from their seats on the grass.
As COVID-19 has created mayhem and discontent around the country, it goes without saying that the local soccer fields were desolate spaces this past spring, and parents and kids found the lack of exercise and camaraderie beyond frustrating. The silver lining to that frustration is that it has a way of begetting creativity and adaptability.
In order to offer the local littles some much needed structure and exercise, while giving their parents a much needed break from the drudgery of home schooling and online education, the Coronado Football Club (CFC), under the auspices of the larger Coronado Youth Soccer League, created the Little Islanders Soccer Club, specifically for the very young ages of 4, 5, and 6.
The club, which meets on Monday afternoons in four-week sessions, is coached by CFC director and local coaching icon Jerry Ruiz, who has guided local youth in the popular sport for over 14 years. Coronado High School soccer players Gracie Gehler, an outstanding soccer player who just signed with the University of North Dakota, and fellow Islander Fina Senteriani, also help out, keeping the aspiring athletes on track, moving, and involved.
Ruiz, along with the assistance of Furio Penteriani and pro player Sebastian Mora, have created a safe, organized, and fun method of teaching the youngsters the basic foundations of the sport. Coordination is a key principle, so, along with the familiar mini orange nets placed around the field, there are designated obstacle courses and cones, which also serve as markers to remind the tots and their parents that social distancing is a must on the sidelines as well as the field.
The pint-sized athletes begin with warm ups of jumping and running, but quickly work their way into playing distanced games based on old childhood favorites such as Red Light, Green Light, Treasure Hunt, and Sharks and Minnows. The kids have fun, get exercise, and develop foot skills and coordination and a sense of how the sport is played, without entirely realizing that they’re developing real game skills.
CFC has completed one session, and is in the midst of the second. Though there is a break in December, another session will likely be offered beginning the second week of January, depending on city permitting and the current shutdown situation.
To stay updated on current information and enrollment possibilities, please visit https://www.coronadoyouthsoccerleague.com