At ASA we work hard to make soccer accessible to all children who want to play. This means removing barriers such as cost, transportation, online registration and more (across a variety of different programs). Once kids are involved it is our goal to keep them active, healthy and safe for as long as they want to participate.
It’s no secret that the dropoff rate for girls participating in sports is higher than that of boys. Despite the growing success of women’s sports in the United States two reasons some girls dropout are social stigma and gender stereotypes. With that in mind, we believe it’s important to create a positive environment, especially at a young age, that fosters connection between teammates, success and fun. Friendships help create an environment where kids feel supported and enjoy playing.
To test out whether friendships were important we asked a handful of U9 girls what their favorite part of the season has been so far. Without prompting, ALL of them mentioned their teammates or friends as part of their answer.
Jacqueline, a U9 parent from the girls red team, did an amazing job coordinating social activities (off the field!) for her daughter’s team this fall and we asked her to share her experience and a few ideas. Last year her daughter played “up” so she’s in her second year as a U9 social coordinator. Jacqueline went above and beyond to give the girls opportunities to bond and get to know each other away from the soccer field (which is a bit more difficult in a pandemic!).
Coach Tim, the U9 girls red team coach, said, “Team chemistry is such an important part of how a team plays on the field. It’s been amazing to see the girls grow both on and off the pitch and as players, teammates and now friends.”
Q&A with Jacqueline
How did you get involved as the Social Chair for your daughter’s team?
I volunteered last year to be the social chair for Em’s team when she was playing up on the 2011 white team and I figured that since I did it last year, it made sense for me to continue this year since there is a little bit of a learning curve with getting hotels for tournaments, etc.
What kinds of activities or events have you organized this season?
Last year – I booked the hotel rooms for both the 2011 red and white teams as well as hosted a pizza/pool party at the hotel we were staying at for the Richmond Tournament. It was a blast seeing the girls along with their families having such a great time. I have parents tell me that their daughters still bring up the pizza/pool party.
For this year because of Covid, I had to think of safe ways for the team to bond and one thing I came up with was a virtual cooking class. We had one where we made Gus Gus Mac and Cheese for dinner which the girls (and parents) loved and we had one a make your own brownie sundae with homemade brownies class. Also, we had an outdoor movie night where we watched a soccer movie (team pick); it was so cool watching the girls cheer on the protagonist of the movie and cheer like crazy when they won.
Several of the girls’ delicious ice cream sundae creations!
Why do you think it’s important to provide the team opportunities to hang out away from the soccer field?
Coach Tim said that his best memories are from what he did with his team off the field and I completely agree with him; I still have memories of all the cool activities I did with my high school soccer team. Also, I think it helps you understand your teammates on a different level because you start to understand each other’s personalities which do play a part in how people play on the field.
Has anything surprised you about your experience as social coordinator?
I guess one thing that does surprise me is when other parents who have older kids in soccer programs tell me the things I am doing for our team, they haven’t had for their older kids teams. I grew up where parents helped pitch in for their kids sports teams whether it’s assistant coaching, supplying snacks, organizing end of year parties, etc. So for me it just made sense to do these things because that’s how I grew up.
Finally, anything to share with future U9 parents who are interested in getting involved as a volunteer with their child’s team?
I would tell them to definitely volunteer in some capacity. It not only helps your children’s soccer team bond but it also helps the parents to become a family as well and the kids pick up on that positive energy.
“Having the girls participate in these activities brought them together and built a comfort level. This understanding has translated to more cohesiveness in practices and subsequently games. They play hard for one another and they want to see their friends and the team succeed,” said Coach Tim.
Are off field activities and team bonding the only key to victory or fun? Of course not. There are many variables to finding success on the field but our goal at ASA is to keep kids healthy and active. If a child’s love for the game grows alongside friendships and team bonds, this helps create an environment where kids want to return year after year to play and grow!