“I don’t know anything about soccer. I never played it. But my kid LOVES it!” If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say this…
Soccer is the second-most popular sport among youth in America. This is a major statistic, especially given that most parents never played, kids never watch it on television, and kids are simply not exposed to it as much as other sports.
--Side note: This statistic is based on registered youth players. There are thousands of children whose families come from soccer-centered countries or simply do not register for an organized league who play informally every day with their friends. This makes soccer way more popular than we can calculate.--
I happen to believe that this is evidence of why soccer is so magnificent. If the people who have had the least amount of societal and cultural conditioning (i.e. only seeing and hearing about American sports) love soccer so greatly, there must be something all the adults missed when growing up. I believe that if more adults had known soccer existed when they were kids, they would have played, and they would have loved it.
It is important that as adults, we preserve these natural characteristics of the game and do not manufacture the experience to be something easier for us to control or understand. The game is beautiful as it is, so let kids play it as it is meant to be played.
Here are six reasons kids love the beautiful game:
1. It is Simple to Understand
Two teams. One ball. No hands. Get it in the goal. That’s pretty easy to understand. There are no crazy rules like “outs” or “strikes” or “downs” or “extra points.”
2. It is Easy to Learn
Soccer is not easy to play. You can’t use the one part of your body that is the most natural to use – your hands. However, it is easy for kids to understand how it is played, and it is easy for them to learn how to get better. 90% of the battle is just controlling the ball. Kids quickly learn that they need to keep the ball close if they don’t want to lose it. Then in order to avoid crashing, they learn how to turn. Easy.
3. It is Sufficiently Challenging
If soccer were too difficult, kids would lose interest. If it was too easy, they would lose interest. As mentioned above, soccer is easy to understand and to learn how to improve – kids get instant feedback based on their performance. However, it is not so easy that they grow bored. There is just the right balance of success and challenge – enough success to keep them motivated, and enough challenge to keep them determined to get better.
4. It is Continuously Flowing
No timeouts and only one halftime. Other than that, the game keeps going. If there is ever a restart for a goal or out-of-bounds, it does not take long to get started again. Kids love that they get to play nonstop.
5. They Are Active
Kids are constantly moving in soccer. The ball goes up, they chase it. It comes back, they chase it. It goes out, someone quickly brings it back in and they keep playing. There is no standing around waiting for the next play to start. There is no switching spots with other players or the other team when you switch from offense to defense. They get to run around endlessly.
6. They Are in Charge
When kids are playing, the last thing they want is an adult to tell them what to do. In soccer, there are no timeouts, no plays. They get to make the decisions and figure out how they want to try and score. They can run when they want, they can stop and pick the grass when they want. There are no limits of where they can go or requirements to wait in a certain spot until the ball comes to them – they can go get it!