Nittany Valley Sports Centre will be offering a new program this fall that will introduce soccer and all the benefits of playing team sports to young kids.
Lil’ Kickers is a national soccer program offered at more than 100 locations in 27 states and is designed for kids ages 18 months to seven years. The program focuses on the fun aspects of playing sports while also helping children develop all the skills that sports can provide, such as hand-eye coordination, positive social interactions and confidence, said Michael Lee, executive director of NVSC.
The Lil’ Kickers website said that classes for this age group focus on building important basic skills, such as balance and coordination. The program uses a variety of sensory activities such as blowing bubbles, playing with parachutes and noodles and building towers made out of cones and are presented in a sequence that promotes skill development and cognitive mapping.
Lee said soccer is an ideal sport to start kids out with because while catching and throwing usually are skills developed a little later, most kids can kick a ball. But still, early on, the focus isn’t on playing the game of soccer, per se, but instead on developing the fundamental skills and coordination that are the building blocks of physical activity.
“They are going to play a lot of age-appropriate games and activities that will help develop cognitively and physically, while also getting positive socialization with other children. All the while, it will be focused on having a fun experience,” said Lee. He said they won’t be playing too much soccer at that age, but developing the skills to play the game later.
“But all kids will get a little soccer ball that they can kick around,” said Lee. Kids also will receive soccer jerseys, or as they say in the soccer world, “kits,” that will make them feel like part of a team.
Lil’ Kickers is more than just a soccer program for kids. Its balanced and creative approach to coaching will have a positive impact on a child that goes far beyond the soccer field. He said the program’s high-energy soccer classes are carefully designed to enhance children’s overall growth and well-being, resulting in kids with strong physical skills, who are well-balanced and confident.
Lee said the program might help kids continue on to playing soccer or other team sport for the rest of their lives, or just be a stepping stone in their physical development. But if they want to continue playing soccer, NVSC offers plenty of options as they grow up, all the way up into adult leagues.
Information about the program is available on the NVSC website. Those who are interested in the program can attend an open house Sept. 28 to 29 and check it out for free. An eight-week program will begin the following weekend and then Lil’ Kickers will continue year-round on 13-week cycles. Participants don’t have to wait until the start date and can join the program at anytime during the cycle.