Soccer for Contact-shy 6yo Girl

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Sunny von Bulow
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Hi.

If anyone is in here reading this...

My daughter just turned six. We have had her in Super Soccer Stars, a skills-instruction program, since she was 2. She has always loved it, and has developed some impressive ball skills. (IIRC, they have SSS in the Boston area). She clearly has some talent.

Now, though, the classes have gradually changed to fewer skills drills, more small games (3 on 3 usually, for 5 minutes at a time). Of course, strategic/tactical knowledge is zero at this age, so the games are pretty much mayhem as all the kids chase the ball. The coaches try to get the kids to space out, pass, etc., but with minimal success.

Most of the other kids are boys. They are, as 5-6yo boys tend to be, aggressive to the point of recklessness. Lil OCST is usually a boisterous kid, but in these mobs, she gets spooked and withdraws. She says she wants to be "goalie," which means standing on the back line and sucking her thumb. Again, it's a shame, because in small drills, she loves dribbling, shooting, passing, defending, etc. She's also really fast.

An aggravating factor may be that has been inside on a private school's hardwood gym floor for the winter session. To be fair, kids have taken some pretty horrific spills onto the floor. She seems to do better outside in the summer.

This wasn't a problem when she was 3-4, but the boys are getting bigger and crazier.

I'm a firm believer in team sports, especially for girls, and I don't want her to get discouraged.

As of now, we have enrolled her for the spring, not in Super Soccer Stars, but in a youth academy program sponsored by the NY Red Bulls: http://www.redbullsacademy.com I'm not sure if this would be better.

Thoughts on how we can address this? Anyone been down this road? Would a girls-only program be better? Are such things even common at this age- I'm not aware of any gender-specific programs? Anything else that can be done?

TIA.
 

Omar's Wacky Neighbor

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Hate to say it, but as they get older, the girls are usually more vicious than the boys.

Next time I see him, I'll ask a friend for his suggestions. He's a HS varsity coach, played pro in his native Scotland before coming over, and runs his own training business.
 

Heinie Wagner

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Hate to say it, but as they get older, the girls are usually more vicious than the boys.
I agree with Omar, girls hold a grudge more and are much more vindictive as they get older.

Can you find somewhere for her to play with just girls? First grade is where our local club starts to separate girls and boys.

You shouldn't expect kids to space out or pass much at that age. It's really just about them and the ball at that age.

US Youth Soccer player development model - every soccer parent should be required to read this, it does a great job explaining what is developmentally appropriate for each age group - coaching 6-7 year olds and yelling "pass the ball" or "spread out" is mostly a waste of breath.
http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/assets/1/3/US_Youth_Soccer_Player_Development_Model.pdf
 

Rancho Relaxo

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Purely anecdotal, but my daughter was very similar. She played co-ed parks and rec in kindergarten and first grade. The teams consisted of kids in kindergarten through second grade. She was very tentative (especially after getting blasted a couple of times). In second grade, we went the club route to get her on an all-girls team. She definitely became more aggressive and confident (though the coaching and refereeing was also superior). I think a combination of a more knowledgeable (and encouraging) coach and an all-girls team with whom she bonded made a big difference. Bonus that none of the kids went to her school, so it have her an entirely new group of friends, none of whom were aware of any school drama she might have experienced on a given day. She could leave all that crap behind.

Finding a coach who develops with long-term skills in mind and not short-term winning is also important.
 

Heinie Wagner

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If you're looking for a great book on motivating girls to play soccer - Tony Dicicco's "Catch them being good: everything you need to know to successfully coach girls" is outstanding. Even if you're not coaching, you just want to understand things that could help girls perform better, this is a really good read.
 

BrazilianSoxFan

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There is also the possibility that she actually likes being a goalie.

How she reacts when there is a shot on goal? Does she flinch away from the ball or actively tries to make a save?
 

RIFan

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Jul 19, 2005
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A slightly related experience. My the six year old son had to be almost dragged to the field for soccer games. Anytime someone would bump into him, he'd practically start crying. Six months later he came home all excited about playing deck hockey and shortly after wanting to learn to skate. He played deck hockey against kids 2 years older with more contact and it never bothered him. He's now in high school giving up 75 pounds routinely and doesn't shy from contact. Ultimately, I don't think it was about not "liking" the contact, but more about the aggression of other kids where he felt in his 6 YO mind it wasn't supposed to be that way. It was too much of a change from the 1st year and he wasn't adaptable enough and therefore started to hate soccer. Six year olds can be fairly rigid in their expectations and their sense of 'fair play'. Hockey he understood from going to games was an aggressive game and contact was to be expected. It might help if she sees some higher level games and observes that contact is part of the game and that it isn't about dribbling around cones and having a ball to yourself. -or- it just might not be for her and something else will grab her interest.