Imagine a soccer game where every player has the same colour jersey. There are no home or away teams, and every player has the same No. 18 stamped on their backs. No, this isn’t weird dream, it’s non-competitive outdoor soccer.
Instead of focusing on shooting to score, these kids are learning fundamentals of the sport such as dribbling, passing and trapping.
“We want to light the little fire in them. We aren’t geared towards creating elite athletes, we just want them to be passionate,” said Lee Richardson, the West Shore-based Sportball program director for Vancouver Island.
At the end of each class the kids are divided to play a game against each other, but “we try to have it end in a tie,” Richardson said.
The outdoor soccer program is offered to children two to eight years old.
When it comes to the program for two and three year olds, Richardson doesn’t have to worry about getting all the young tots to listen to him.
“The parents are the personal trainers for the kids,” he said explaining he goes over the drills with the parents who do them with the kids.
While Sportball focuses on skills rather than goals, many kids do move on to competitive teams.
“A lot of the time it feeds into competitive soccer,” Richardson said. “It’s a great chance for kids to get comfortable and get self-esteem and confidence with sports. A lot of parents get frustrated to see their kids on the sidelines,” Richardson said. “Here everyone gets the ball. Even when they are playing a game we work them and guide them.”
Metchosin resident Tammy Cowan, has enrolled her two sons, Evan, 7, and Blake, 6, in several Sportball programs at both Metchosin elementary and Hans Helgesen elementary school.
For Cowan, she signed her kids up in the program not because it was non-competitive, but because it was offered in Metchosin. One the Sportball programs is offered at Hans Helgesen school, and offered right after school for the kids to go to.
“A big part of it was because it was out here,” Cowan said adding at Hans Helgesen there has been no sports programs at the school after hours due to the teachers actions.
Soccer is one of the brother’s favourite sports so far, and after having the exposure through Sportball.
“If they enjoy it they’ll move onto a league,” Cowan said.
The brothers are also in the multi-sport program through Sportball as well.
“It’s good practise and they get to play a lot of different sports,” Cowan said explaining that without Sportball she wouldn’t have been able to expose her kids the assortment of sports they have tried.
The multi-sport program, also non-competitive, allows children to experience sports including hockey, soccer, volleyball and golf.
That program is offered to children as young as 16 months old.
“That is really about basic skills like how to hold a racquet,” Richardson said. Young tots learning sports such as tennis will start by hitting a ball sitting on a pylon, then move up to bouncing it off the floor to hit it, he explained.
The outdoor soccer program run by Sportball has been growing each year on the West Shore since 2006. The Sportball program on the West Shore has more kids enrolled than any other area in Greater Victoria.