East Side Sports (ESS) offers a special Sunday afternoon introductory soccer program for 3- and 4-year olds. Due to its popularity in recent years, the program has grown significantly yet its organization remains “loose”, informal and appropriate for this age. Children are divided into small groups, which (theoretically) stay together for the entire 8 weeks. Participants are exposed to a variety of age-appropriate games/activities that are designed to gradually integrate beginning soccer skills. There are no competitive games, but a number of skill-based adaptations of children’s games (like “Follow the leader”, “Keep Away from the Coach”, “Red light, Green light”, and everyone’s favorite “Let’s go roll down the hill!”) that introduce soccer skills in a variety of ways. Often children at this age have difficulty separating from their parents, so parents are invited to help out. ESS has several high school soccer players who become team leaders; however parents are always needed to help. Interested parents may team up with a high school leader or with another parent (or two or three) to coach (facilitate) a group of children for the fall session. Volunteer parents typically coach their own children (and children’s friends) if desired. Groups are informally determined so that friends can be together, with each group selecting its own team name. Each child receives a tee shirt at the beginning of the program and a special award on the final day.
The Clinic takes place at 12:30 PM, the same time that ESS’s Division 1 games are played (for Kindergarten and 1st graders) at beautiful Wheeler Farm in Seekonk, MA. Obviously the Clinic is a much less formal program than the older divisions and, thus, the exposure to soccer is only part of a child’s early, social “team” experience. Every effort is made to keep it fun, engaging, and developmentally appropriate. While sample instructional practice plans are available to volunteer parents, there is a great deal of trial and error learning that takes place from week to week as parent-coaches find specific activities that are particularly fun for their group. The ESS Clinic is the setting for a lot of fun and is a great way for a family to spend one hour on a Sunday autumn afternoon in a New England.