On a sunny Tuesday morning a group of children mull about on the outskirts of Maple Ridge’s Karina LeBlanc Field.
Distanced appropriately, they stick close to their parents while waiting to be called onto the pitch by one of five Ridge Meadows Soccer Club coaches.
The group of four to six-year-olds are taking part in the club’s annual spring break camp, where they will better their skills at one of the city’s most popular sports.
Sporting Director, Craig Dalrymple cannot help but smile at the young players with their colourful boots.
“You can’t handle more than eight or nine of the younger players in a group,” he said.
“It’s like organized chaos.”
The camp will see 140 kids from age four to 13 take the field.
Rather than have all of them come at once, the players are split into age and stage specific groups.
“Rather than doing a traditional two hour block where everyone comes in from ages five to 15, we spread the players out over the course of the day,” Dalrymple said.
“Our youngest group comes in at 9:30 and our oldest group comes in at three-o-clock, so the coaches are putting long days in.
“But we wanted to put the players in more appropriate training groups to give them maximum opportunity to enjoy and develop.”
Dalrymple said the skills training for the kids will focus on ball mastery, and physical literacy.
“For ball mastery, you only need a player and a ball, and we create competition with some of the relay races, and activities, so we can get that competitive feeling for the players, even though they can’t compete in small-sided games,” he said.
“Physical literacy is a big thing,” the sporting director pointed out.
“With the reduction of phys-ed in school and the reduction of kids going out and playing in their back gardens and parks, I’ve been noticing general movement skills are not where they need to be.
“So that’s a big emphasis, so we try to keep the players active for the whole hour.”
The goal is achieved by coaches doing their training on top of the activity, he noted.
Rather than have the young soccer players stop and start, the coach keeps them moving and provides tips and instruction while they’re kicking, dribbling, and running.
In addition to the experienced coaches, some aspiring trainers are also helping out.
“We’re working on some apprenticeship coach opportunities, so some young teenagers who want to get into coaching that are nearing the end of their young careers as players are taking part,” Dalrymple said.
“We’ve got three of them working with the senior coaches through the week to help supervise some of the younger players.”
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