Soon, close to 1,000 kids will be kicking soccer balls around parks and playgrounds in the Walla Walla Valley. Would you like to get your child involved in athletics? If you have any thoughts of introducing your young son or daughter to organized sports, there is no better game than soccer.

As a young athlete growing up, I had one short introduction to the game of soccer, around the age of 10. It was on a high-school-size field, with 10 other players from my team on the field at the same time. A lot of running was involved to cover this very large area, and there were very few opportunities to put my foot on the ball. I loved sports as a youngster, but that form of soccer was not for me.

I would have enjoyed today’s youth soccer much more. Kids as young as 5 play on a field that is 20 yards wide and 30 yards long. Only three players from each team are on the field, with no goalkeeper. Now this is fun! Lots of touches on the ball, lots of goals scored, and players don’t have to run more than 30 yards at a time.

What kid can’t kick a ball? We have all seen toddlers — even those just learning to walk — kicking balls around the house or yard. Kids are ready to play youth soccer at a young age, whereas many other sports require more coordination, and successful participation in these sports generally can’t take place until a bit later in childhood.  

Maybe you don’t see your child having the body type or skills to excel at the high school or collegiate level, but sign them up anyway. Youth soccer provides so many great things that transfer to most other sports.

Let’s talk about footwork: Good footwork and quick feet are essential to being successful in nearly every other sport. Football, baseball, softball, basketball, lacrosse and many others require quick feet. The game of soccer promotes footwork naturally through participation. This great game will begin to develop footwork that is essential to excel at other sports your child may play later in their youth.

My three kids all started playing youth soccer at the age of 5. They each continued to play soccer through middle school. One of my two daughters is now playing Division 1 college softball, and it was the footwork her college coach saw in her recruiting video that piqued his interest. Where did her good footwork start, you ask? Youth soccer.

My son was on the Walla Walla Valley Little League team that went to the Little League World Series in 2017. He played shortstop on the team, earning this spot thanks to the quick feet that, yes, he developed by playing youth soccer.

We all know the chances of receiving an athletic scholarship or playing professionally are very slim, so why not use sports to prepare your child for life? I often say there is no better vehicle to teach our youth about life than through youth sports.  

Sports are a great way to help your child learn to be active. With today’s youths spending increased time on screens, participation in sports is becoming essential for their health. In addition, being active as a youth will help encourage your child to be active as an adult.

Learning how to be a team player is another important skill that can be developed through participation in youth sports. As adults, nearly all of the jobs your child will hold will require them to work with others and be a contributing member of a team. What better way to foster this important skill than through youth sports?

Other skills your child will learn through participation in youth sports include building self-esteem, dealing with adversity, learning how to compete and many others. These skills are ones that, as adults, we use nearly every day. So, register your child for youth soccer to not only give them a great athletic foundation, but a great life foundation.

Yes, participation in soccer and other youth sports typically involves a fee for participation. If this fee is a burden for your family, you can call the Parks and Recreation office at 509-527-4527 and ask about the scholarship program that is available.  

Registration for Fall Youth Soccer is now taking place. If you have a son or daughter between the ages of 5 and 14, sign them up to participate, then sit back and watch your child’s development from the sidelines.

Registration can be completed online at wwpr.us or by visiting the Parks and Recreation Office at 55 E. Moore St.

Andy Coleman is director of Walla Walla’s Parks and Recreation Department. Contact him at acolemen@wallawallawa.gov.

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