For Senda’s second coach profile, we interviewed two coaches over at HappyFeet in Des Moines, Iowa. Daniel and Sara both answered our questions about coaching young children, fair trade, and their most memorable moments.
How is it like to coach soccer to 2-5 year olds?
Sara: This is the most amazing job I have ever had! Before becoming the director, I was a coach for about a year (and am currently still coaching). I work with training the new coaches to help them understand how to explain soccer to such young children! This age group is so much fun, it’s amazing to see how quickly they learn and how much fun they have with our curriculum.
Daniel: Coaching this age group is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. Just watching them grow as little soccer players is amazing. They soak up everything that you teach them and it is amazing watching them try the things that we teach them. They want to learn this game and they get so excited every week for HappyFeet to visit their school. I love seeing that excitement and that is what drives me every day.
What aspects of the game do you try to emphasize at such a young age?
Sara: The things we try to emphasize is just being comfortable with a soccer ball. Most kids are so used to picking up any type of ball and throwing it, so learning to use their feet is a very new skill. We teach skills such as pull backs, step overs, and pendulums. Our goal is for them to get the motion down and as they grow older they will start to understand what the move is used for and have more confidence during a real game to do as many moves as possible!
What is HappyFeet’s coaching philosophy? What do you hope to accomplish?
Sara: Our coaching philosophy is very child centered. We aren’t all about the “winners” or the amazing players, we understand that every child has a different set of skills and everyone can’t be like Cristiano Ronaldo! What we hope to accomplish is that every child has confidence in themselves. We want them to grow up knowing to not be afraid to go out of their comfort zone and try something different, in soccer and in life.
What was the most memorable HappyFeet moment you had during a lesson/game?
Daniel: I have two memorable moments. The first one was getting a group of two year olds that I’ve been working with for months to do step overs. Just watching their teacher’s jaws drop in amazement was awesome. One of the teachers came up to me later and told me how incredible it was watching them do this move because they couldn’t even tie their own shoes, walk in a straight line, etc. But when challenged they could do a step over, no problem.
The other memorable moment was this Spring in our first HappyFeet League. I had a very young team (4 years old) that was eager to learn, but at the same time very timid with this new experience. I had one child in particular that always wanted to score at least one goal a game, no matter what. On the very last day he was starting to get upset because he hadn’t scored yet, so I told him that he had to win the ball in order to score a goal. So what did he do? He went down the field and stole the ball from the other team. He was so excited that he just froze and couldn’t figure out what to do next. I kept telling him to do a pull back to change direction and go the other way. It took him about five seconds to unfreeze but when he did, he did the pull back move, changed directions away from the other team and ran down the field and scored. He came right up to me with a huge smile yelling “I did it, I did it! Did you see that? I did it, I did it!” As he gave me a high five, I had a tear in my eye and so did his parents on the sidelines. This kid stepped up to the challenge, didn’t back down, and accomplished what he wanted to do. That is what drives me and my coaches every day! Watching these kids accomplish their dreams on the field and in the classrooms is one of the most amazing feelings the world.
How has the soccer scene evolved in Iowa over the last 10-15 years?
Sara:It has evolved like CRAZY. We have a huge soccer market here and I know when I was growing up it was still growing. It is still a growing market and I am excited to see how it will grow in the future.
HappyFeet Iowa's newest bobcat.
How do you think players aged 2-5 will respond to the concept of fair trade when you introduce your new Senda balls this coming season?
Sara: I don’t know if they will know! BUT we will let them know and explain the importance. I think a lot of them will really appreciate their new bobcats.
What piece of advice would you give to coaches that work with very young players?
Daniel: Have fun and be yourself. If you are always worrying about what these little kids are thinking about you then you will never be successful. You have to have fun, be goofy, act crazy and just plain make them laugh and smile. If you can do that then not only will you be having fun but the kids will too, and that is what matters the most. If they are having fun and learning at the same time then you are doing your job.
If you’re in the Des Moines area, or just want to learn more about young children and soccer, visit HappyFeet’s website.