The Benefits of Youth Soccer Participation

As an adult soccer league catering to soccer players from Brampton, Mississauga, Caledon and Georgetown for the past 25 years BAS understands the passion and commitment our membership has to the sport. We also know this passion transcends household generations and that many of our members have children whom they’d like to introduce to soccer. We’ve put together a simple guide for BAS parents to help them get their young ones into the world’s greatest sport through youth soccer.

FCT's youth soccer programming running a house league development session.

Benefits of Youth Soccer

At its earliest stages youth soccer offers 3 key areas of benefit for children.

  • Physical Health
  • Socialization
  • Developing a love for soccer

Everyone knows that active children are healthier and happier but one of the newer phrases you’ll hear as a parent, that you didn’t hear 20 years ago when your mum and dad signed you up for your first round of House League games, is “Physical Literacy”.

What is physical literacy? Simply put, it’s a child’s ongoing understanding of what their body does with regards to gross and fine motor skills. Running, jumping, skipping, balancing, throwing, kicking are all gross motor skills children develop best through repetition and participation in sports like soccer. Strong motor skills for children make them more confident and capable and that equates to them being, on the whole, happier.

For many children their first non-school ‘friend groups’ are their house league teams. They’ll learn to come out of their shells, become expressive both verbally and physically, they’ll learn to tolerate others who have different ideas or preferences and they’ll become adaptable little people.

Futsal Club Toronto youth soccer players in a one-v-one activity.

Developing a love for soccer, particularly in a home where the adults have a shared love for the sport is an important factor to a lifetime of positive physical and social habits as well as a lifelong bonding experience for everyone in the home. Sure, we all want our children to love soccer because we love soccer, but there’s a lot more at play there. A child passionate about soccer will seek to continue participating which will find them persistently surrounded by others who share that passion and will have them out on fields keeping active.

What if my kid doesn’t have the potential to be a great player?

Ultimately, who cares? Why would that even matter? BAS has had over 20,000 adult athletes participating in soccer over the past 25 years. Athletes driving into Brampton from Caledon, Oakville, Mississauga, Toronto and Georgetown to play adult soccer. Do we really believe they were all “great”? Did they “need” to be great to enjoy themselves?

What all of these adults have in common and what matters most, is that they are soccer players who keep themselves active and engaged, week-in and week-out, in a sport they love surrounded by people they like. These athletes met their best friends through soccer. Some met their spouses through soccer. Some of them got started on their careers through people they met on and next to soccer pitches. For many, the majority of their social circle is comprised of other athletes they met through the Brampton soccer community.

Three young FCT waiting for some technical activities to start.

There is a misconception that having a child participate in soccer, or any sport for that matter, is a pointless endeavor unless you can see a path for them to become elite level athletes or professionals. We call bullshit on that notion. As these words are being written there are well over 5000 athletes from ages 4 to 60 registered for, and participating in, Brampton soccer programs. There are a few of them that are going to be great one day (because that’s what Brampton does best, produce great players that go on to represent Canada, like Ashley Lawrence, Jonathan Osorio, Kadeisha Buchanan or Clye Larin), but the majority of us registered to play soccer in Brampton are just going to be average people who enjoy spending time with friends and keeping active while we do it. Perhaps all having a hearty laugh after a game as we discuss how Tottenham Hotspurs “get battered everywhere they go”. (Raise your young soccer players properly and teach them to mock Spurs, please. Thank you.)

In short, your kid doesn’t ever need to become a “great” player. If they do, awesome, BAS will one day be writing about their experiences and successes with the Canadian National Team. Even if they just end up being regular adults, with regular jobs, who enjoy playing soccer, their lives will be significantly enriched.

What should I look for in a youth soccer program?

A large part of what to look for depends on what you and your child want their soccer experience to be. Different youth soccer organizations use their house league and grassroots programs in different ways. Ultimately location and price are two large factors that will most likely dictate your initial foray into youth soccer. There are however some immutable truths that you should be aware of before making any decisions.

Capacity to deliver programming

Too many youth organizations over promise and under-deliver. They accept registrations that far exceed their capacity to deliver youth soccer programming. This leads to the dreaded “Your child’s team doesn’t have a coach and someone needs to step up and take on the role” email. This would be like boarding a plane and taking your seat only to have a flight attendant announce that unless someone steps up to fly the plane, the flight is grounded. Why? Because there’s no pilot. One of the reasons for this anomaly in youth soccer is that in Canada we have a history of measuring the success of youth soccer programs by ‘registrations’ rather than by the quality they deliver. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. If you get the “we need someone to coach” email, ask for a refund and find a different program.

Improvement focused programming

The focus in youth soccer should be development of players. You want your child learning. You want your child to improve every week. You want your child to be surrounded by other children who are also improving every week because, as their journey through soccer continues, you want them to be surrounded by other competent and capable players. It’s great when your kid ‘stands out’ immediately, but if they keep being a standout that is miles ahead of everyone else, you have to wonder why other children aren’t getting the assistance they need to catch up.

Winning/Joystick Coaches

The point of a soccer game is, obviously, to WIN. You’ll know the score, the kids playing will know the score, the referee will know the score and so will the coaches. What you want to avoid however is coaches that sacrifice development and soccer fundamentals to get a win in an under-5 game or that approach coaching like a game of FIFA ’23 on the PlayStation 5, attempting to control every players’ every move by shouting detailed instructions from the sideline.

The sport has evolved dramatically over the past 2 decade and we want children developing in tandem with the continued evolution. For example, there are no offsides up until U11, but you still don’t want to see a child being instructed to stand on the edge of the opposition’s penalty box and simply wait for a long ball to be punted in their direction. Grassroots soccer forgoes offsides NOT so that coaches can utilize cherry-picking strikers, rather, the rule isn’t applied in youth soccer because we don’t want to keep stopping already shortened games to penalize a child who strayed a half yard offside and because we want the children playing to focus on the core fundamentals, like finding space, having a solid first touch, persistently moving to improve their positioning, etc.

If you find your child on a team where shortcuts are taken to help the team win what is a meaningless game that no one will care about 15 minutes after the post-match ice cream has been eaten, you should consider finding an alternative organization to join. Even if your kid is playing every minute of a game, are other kids getting benched? Are long, aimless, punts up field being cheered? Are toe-poked goals from 10 yards out applauded consistently without any correction? When a player is in possession, are they being fed a step by step instruction for what to do next, thus taking away their chance to make decisions themselves?

What is an example of a development focused youth club?

A youth soccer house league game in full flow.

There are a lot of great youth soccer programs available within Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga. We strongly urge you to find a sanctioned program to enroll your child into. For an example of a what BAS believes to be a high quality, development focused youth soccer program take a look at Futsal Club Toronto. FC Toronto uses futsal technical fundamentals to develop highly technical and tactically astute players. FCT is one of the examples of an organization that prioritizes quality of programming over quantity of registrations by limiting the number of children they can accommodate based on the number of certified and experienced coaches available. FCT also operates an accredited high performance program in schools for the Toronto and Peel District School Boards. If you’re interested in registering your young ones for FCT’s House League program you can do so here.

We love soccer but our child has special needs and can’t play

This isn’t correct. There are some youth soccer organizations who are considerate enough to offer “All Abilities” programs for youth soccer players with special needs and requirements. We have one such organization right in our city and you can read all about Brams United’s All Abilities program here.

For children with varied abilities and capacities to participate in sports and recreation, being part of an inclusive program that encourages them to express themselves can be even more important. With support from you, their parent/guardian, participating in an all abilities soccer program can be an overwhelmingly beneficial experience for any young child, but particularly for those with alternative needs and abilities.

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