March is a very important month for many kids (and parents). Not because it’s the start of autumn, but because it’s the start of the football (soccer) season.
As the most played sport in Australia, football is one the most inclusive and widely available sports for kids today. And with programs starting for children as young as 18 months old, it’s a sport that girls and boys can play for their whole lives—from a kick-around at the park through to a burgeoning range of elite programs and all ages teams.
“I love this time of year!” said Alex Ollier from Little Kickers Sunshine Coast. “Every March, the kids that have come through my Little Kickers program head to outdoor football for the first time as Under 6s. The parents send me photos and messages of how well they are doing and how happily they’ve settled into a team. I’m always so proud!”
As one of the leading preschool soccer programs in Australia, Little Kickers is where many children’s love for the World Game begins. Held indoors and operating year-round, the program consists of four different classes tailored specifically to the needs of children between 18 months and seven years of age.
“It’s a perfect way to get kids interested in a sport and being active. They don’t realise they are learning because they are having so much fun!” said Alex. “After all, what child doesn’t like to chase around a ball?!”
Alex believes a lot of the program’s success is due to their two core beliefs.
“Firstly, we believe in teaching football in a fun, pressure-free environment. We want to give children a positive introduction to sport as a whole, not just football, so they’re more likely to stay healthy and active throughout their lives. Secondly, we believe football can be educational. Coached in the right way, it can stimulate imagination and aid early development skills such as learning colours and numbers, following instructions and playing as a team.”
As a low contact, agility-based sport, football is equally appealing to both girls and boys.
“It’s the inclusivity that I love the most about football—no matter what your ability or background, there’s no prejudice, it’s a worldwide sport for everyone,” Alex said. “And with such a strong representation across all ages, football is a sport that you can stick with for life.”
Dad and Under 6s coach Alastair agrees. “You can really tell the kids that have gone through a preschool football program and those who have never played before,” Alastair said. “Their gross motor skills and coordination are always notably better and they are more switched on to what’s happening on the field. Most importantly, these kids are the ones that seem to stick at it. You can see that the love for the sport is already there, they are ready, confident and excited to be in the team.”
Of course, let’s not forget the parents—after all, we need to drive them around and support them!
“Football clubs are fun to be at!” said mum Louise. “The team spirit between the parents is usually great, and it’s non competitive until U12s—so the whole experience throughout the junior years is about having fun and playing as a team.”
Benefits of football
- Develops social skills
- Develops gross motor skills
- Improves coordination
- Encourages teamwork and responsibility
- Boosts self-confidence and self-esteem
- Increases concentration and focus
- Promotes cognitive development