They squeal every time.
When the cloud-like parachutes billow toward the gym ceiling and create momentary circus tents, the girls’ eyes pop, their mouths drop, they squeal, and they run under the parachute marveling at the magical world suddenly enveloping them.
Every time. Guaranteed.
And they keep squealing with glee as they dribble their soccer balls beneath the slowly lowering clouds. Over and over and over again.
At Hot Shots, we are dedicated to making soccer “practice” different than anything they will ever experience in organized sports. No lines. No having to wait their turn to dribble through a boring set of cones. We recognize that they are still children with vivid imaginations and a love of play, make-believe, and fun!
So, as crazy as it sounds, parachutes, pillow fights, and puppets really do have a place in teaching soccer.
Our crazy props and games have at least four purposes:
- The first is to have fun.
- The second is to teach a skill. Every silly game actually reinforces a soccer skill. For example, throwing the ball at a puppet on a stick teaches them to let go of the ball early and get an arc (most girls release late and end up throwing the ball into the ground in front of them.)
- The third goal is to keep the girls guessing and alert (what’s that crazy coach going to do next?).
- And the fourth purpose is to give them something to look forward to and a reason to want to come back (they don’t want to miss anything new, plus we repeat the wildly popular games periodically).
But a prop cannot be an end in itself; all the props must contribute to teaching a soccer skill. Having parents throw stuff animals at the girls as they dribble reinforces the need to be looking up as they kick the ball, teaching “field of vision” (you can’t pass or shoot if you’re looking down at the ball). And having parent chase the girls with a pillow (our pillow fight game) teaches the girls to change direction as they dribble to get away.
These are the ultimate “educational toys.” The girls are having fun and most of the time they don’t even know they’re learning a soccer skill.
Dreaming up these games is great fun, too. My coaches and I love brainstorming games and props. Who’d have thought bathroom rugs could become magic carpets for a dribbling drill? Or plain pieces of red fabric become matador capes for a shooting lesson? Or animal-themed laundry hampers become throw-in targets?
Finding props, too, is an adventure. I frequent stores that sell discontinued or damaged stuff cheap. I once found small stuffed animals for pennies apiece, and now they’re the famous flying chickens that fill the air during field-of-vision drills. I’ve also haunted costume shops where I found dozens of tutus and tiaras and boas for the Sleeping Beauty shooting game (if the girls shoot the ball at their parent dressed as Sleeping Beauty, the fall asleep and can only be awakened by a kiss…. or a tickle!). Fabric stores are always unloading unpopular materials, some of which are now my bright red matador capes.
One of our primary purposes is to show our girls they can have fun while learning. We also believe lessons learned in joy and excitement in unforgettable circumstances last longer.
Come by any Sunday from January through March and check us out. I guarantee you will never see another sports program like Hot Shots.
By John Wilpers, Hot Shots Founder and Director