Friday 8 October 2010

Sprechen zie Football?

Bonjour, or should I say Yiassou having just returned from the Greek island of Crete. My girlfriend and I had a lovely time, a much deserved break for us both, a chance to relax in the sun, snorkel and various other activities.

It was about the fourth day into our holiday, and one of the cleaners who smiled so much it could almost be considered a condition, greeted us with a big smile and a loud “kalimera,”! Needless to say Stacey and I looked at each other slightly puzzled as to what “kalimera” meant. We later found out that it meant ‘good morning’, however it took us four days (out of a possible 7) to realise that we didn’t know any Greek. We were in Crete, but knew nothing of their language.

In our defence, upon arrival we could have easily thought we had landed in Birmingham, we were greeted by a long string of midlanders, it felt like the Costa del Coventry. Upon arrival to the airport and getting to the hotel, to being around the pool and on the beach, people would talk to us in English. This worried me slightly, was I that pale that they knew I was English? I had no Harry Potter books on me, and I didn’t drink tea so it couldn’t have been living up to the stereotype, and Stacey refused to allow me to pack my union jack bandana, much to my dismay!!!

We felt rude, we were in someone else’s country and we hadn’t even tried speaking their language. From then on we made a real conscious effort to speak in their language, admittedly for them to answer in English but at least we had tried.

During the same day I discovered a new language. A revelation. A language that we could all speak, no matter what country of origin. I found out that I could speak “Football”! I discovered this whilst walking past the numerous taverns and bars, each showing a different football match as to cater for everyone. I found myself speaking “Football” to so many different people.

Football has become an international language in itself. Adored and loved by so many, everyone has their own opinion on teams, players and managers, and regardless of if you want to hear someone’s opinion, if you speak Football you will receive it! Luckily for me, the island was full of Man Utd supporters, so I felt at home amongst friends. Whether it was just “what a goal” and sticking your thumbs up at them, or just naming players such as Messi and shaking your head in disbelief of his mastery of a football, it became a conversation, somewhat disjointed, but a conversation none the less.

Football brings people together. From all different walks of life, locally and as I found out - internationally. At Little Kickers we have sessions running on the other side of the world. And yes, some of us have slightly different accents, some may even speak another language, but speaking the language of Football has allowed people to share ideas, discuss opinions and bring people closer together. At Little Kickers children learn to love the game in the correct atmosphere, the love for the game so that in 18 years time, when they go off on their first holiday you know they are that little bit safer in the country because they can speak the same language….Football.

Note: If you are a Man Utd fan, do not holiday in Liverpool and expect to speak the same language. Lesson learnt.

Saturday 4 September 2010

Blue September 2010

My father is one of the lucky ones. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and lives to tell the tale. It seems most people have had someone close to them be diagnosed with cancer and it’s definitely not a ‘it won’t happen to me’ scenario as it’s just all too common now.

No longer can you just be a bystander to this diagnosis, if we can all help each other and ourselves with understanding early diagnosis and taking precautionary measures the more lives we can save.

“In New Zealand, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. About 2,500 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year.” ( ‘Men’ are husbands, fathers and grandfathers who affect even the youngest generation. It is Blue September 2010 (Prostate Cancer Awareness month) and it seems many men have a dislike for acknowledging that something isn’t quite right or if they do acknowledge it they don’t want to act on it. It’s often up to those around them to push them to go to the Doctor and get a check up.

Now you may wonder what this has to do with us at Little Kickers and preschool football?

A study (‘NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study’) carried out over 6 years shows clearly that overweight and obese men are more likely to die from prostate cancer than men of normal weight, though no more likely to actually develop the disease.

Little Kickers is about starting that all important task of introducing daily movement as a lifestyle behaviour and if this can be done through the beautiful game of football (soccer) that they love to play than that’s even better.

The importance of being active comes with it the recognition of keeping healthy and awareness of your body in a positive way (even at their young age). We start off getting children to enjoy being active. We keep our sessions light hearted and fun without putting undue pressure on succeeding at what they are doing. We support your child’s effort whether their ‘big kick’ off the sandcastle (aka coloured marker) was actually a small kick or they missed it completely. It doesn’t matter to us, we’ll get them to keep trying and give them plenty of high fives along the way. Their enjoyment at the sessions is the most important thing.

By introducing the love of sports into their lives we hope to instil the love of healthy living which leads to a healthier lifestyle. This in turn leads to a healthier family environment and generations of healthy families.

If we can start this process at pre-school age we are more likely to succeed.

More information about Prostate Cancer and Blue September:

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Hardest job in the world

After having had a few lemonades in my local public house, a friend and I were discussing our professions and our enjoyment of them. We then went off subject trying to list the most difficult jobs in the world, including the British Prime Minister and the next Manchester United manager; we listed the obvious - Firemen, the Police and all the emergency services. Admittedly we did digress somewhat, for example, the most difficult job in the world being selling doors – door to door…‘bing-bong, o you’ve got one, never mind’!!! It then became quite competitive as to who had the more enjoyable job.

I am pleased to say I won hands down! I listed the obvious clichés in it being rewarding and satisfying; however clichés are only in existence because they hold elements of truth and value. I also labelled seeing the development of children as a colossal reason, in addition having an impact on the improvement of health and fitness, and working for a company that holds high moral values.

I love Little Kickers, and I have been a proud employee in various different positions since 2003. It is difficult to call it work, as working with such excellent and passionate colleagues and like minded coaches it makes it fun and worthwhile. And obviously your children are the highlight of my weeks - I have learnt to expect the unexpected when dealing with children, but even that thought does not prepare you for some of the genius comments that children come up with! It’s nice to see my games being put into practice, and children enjoying them and sometimes the Mums and Dads even more so!

I would love to spend more time with the children, (I realise your all shouting easier said than done!) however, we do only get an hour a week with your mini superstars. As some of you may or may not know, we have a Facebook site. On this Facebook site you can find my ‘top secret garden games’ – games and exercises I have created for you and your little ones to enjoy at home. If you are one of the 8 people in the world that doesn’t have Facebook, fear not – we have put them all on the ‘What’s New’ page on this website. Take a look and give them a go! Why not send us a snap of your child playing the games and we will upload them onto our website!

In the mean time, enjoy the rest of the summer, and absorb every ray of sun that the skies are begrudgingly giving us.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Full-time versus Part-time mum

I recently got back in contact with an old school friend who I found out was pregnant with her first baby. She messaged me back asking if I was lucky enough to be a ‘full-time mum’ i.e. a stay at home mum. It took a while for me to get my head around that question and how I would answer it.

I could have easily asked the same question to expectant friends prior to having children myself but my views on the ideals and benefits of being a stay at home mum versus a working mum drastically changed now having kids.

Pre-kids I had a lot of patience, in good health and had good energy levels. I am fortunate enough to have my husband work a 5 minutes drive away with the leniency to come home if required and an understanding boss who happens to have 2 sets of twins! When my boys (twins) reached around 15 months old I was finding it increasingly hard to keep up my energy levels and patience to survive day on day. It became regular practice for me to call my husband up once a week pulling my hair out wondering how I was going to survive the next hour and it’s not as if my boys are different to any other toddlers. I soon realised something needed to change maybe it was time to look at some part-time work. I love my boys to bits but I felt like I wasn’t being the best parent that I could be.

I actually find my self luckier being a ‘part-time mum’ than a ‘full-time mum’ and I don’t mean in terms of finances, I mean in terms of energy levels and patience.

We were lucky enough to stumble across Little Kickers which has been my saviour in life in terms of how I care for my kids and in a way my sanity!

We started off with an independent nanny who luckily the boys adored to bits but unfortunately she left with minimum notice and left us stuck as to what to do. It felt like ages that I spent discussing the pros and cons of day-care and whether we should investigate this option further. I had only recently read a report from one of the boys’ paediatricians Simon Rowley who wrote about the negative impact of day-care on children under the age of 2 so I was even more reluctant to go down this route. My main concern was the boys’ happiness as I thought they may be stressed or uncared for versus a nanny. My pre-conceived understanding on day-care was that there wouldn’t be enough carers to properly care for of all the children.

How wrong was I, after visiting 5 centres I found the perfect centre for my boys. The carers were so loving and understanding: they kept to their routine, fed them healthy lunches and had more than enough energy to keep up with them.

I spent 3 days with the boys at the centre until I felt as though I could leave them alone. There were a few tears at the start (by them) but once I was around the corner and out of sight they soon stopped. They now attend day-care 3 mornings and 1 short day a week and what a better parent and person I am for it.

I feel like a new person and I know I am a much better parent for it. During my working day I get to speak to other business’s, parents, suppliers, employees and generally feel like I exist as a person and not just someone’s mum. When I pick the boys up from day-care I have this rush of love for them. I especially love it when they don’t know that I’ve arrived and I get to see them playing with the other children and then when they do see me I get an assortment of emotions from them. These range from running away from me because they want to stay and play to dancing around in excitement and giving me huge hugs as they wave goodbye to the carers (even if I’m not ready to go yet).

Once home I put work aside and use all my energy in interacting and playing with them, I adore hearing their giggles and now have the patience and energy to deal with their terrible two’s better. I love that they come home from day-care having learnt new words or actions to songs and seeing them develop socially.

I’ve realised my life needs more than just kids to make it complete and being a ‘part-time mum’ works perfectly for me, I actually feel lucky that I can be one over a ‘full-time’ mum. I am sill a wife, business women and a friend and to add to that a loving mum who is trying to find that perfect work/life balance.

My hat goes off to full-time mums as I often feel you don’t get enough recognition for what you do in today’s society and how hard your days can be.

Yvette; mum, wife, business partner, coach, friend....

Wednesday 23 June 2010

I had a Dream...

After 90 minutes of often heart stopping action and four of the longest minutes of ‘injury’ time in the history of sport (to me at least), the full time whistle was blown. The New Zealand All Whites had held Italy, the Azzuri, the reigning World Cup holders to a deserved 1-1 draw. That’s worth repeating: the All Whites held Italy – yes, Italy – to a draw at the World Cup. And that’s the World Cup of football (soccer), the round ball variety.

Let’s rewind a couple of hours. My clock radio alarm went off at 1.15am and I dragged myself out of bed. Torn between the desire to crawl back under the cosy duvet or creep into the lounge and rug up in front of the TV I chose neither. This early morning wake-up was different. The sound of the vuvuzela was calling and the nerves were already jangling.

There’s nothing quite like a big game – but if I have one golden rule about ‘big games’ it’s that you need to experience them with other people. And so it was I found myself on my friends couch at 2am. I kicked, headed, jumped and prayed the entire match. I found myself transformed into an All Whites diehard – gone was the patriotic Englishman that arrived in Auckland some 8 years ago. The All White in me had been found.

Paston, Smith, Nelsen, Reid, Bertos, Lochhead, Elliott, Vicelich, Fallon, Smeltz, Killen and Herbert wrote themselves into not just NZ folklore, but World Cup legend. A performance built around discipline, sound tactics, commitment, passion, skill and, perhaps most importantly, an understanding of their own abilities was produced like very few have ever been before by a group of New Zealanders. The rank outsiders had not become contenders but they had become credible. The team that reached the World Cup finals along the easiest of qualifying routes had delivered the honest, raw romance that the world had been waiting for. Free of prima donnas, the All Whites gave football back to the people.

The match itself appeared in places to take an eternity, yet in others it fairly raced by. The anxious moments to see quite how the Guatemalan referee would react to the Italian synchronised divers kept coming. The long range shots, countless corners, last ditch tackles and magical saves built a sense of expectation as the minutes ticked by. The full time whistle naturally bought much celebration and relief. But we shouldn’t see it as full time.

Dreams are strange in that they often project a reality that one has not yet come to terms with. A reality that seems so far away but within touching distance all at the same time. Football in New Zealand has struggled for years to gain widespread coverage. That the All Blacks only featured on the news bulletin today as they were playing football in training perhaps gives an indication of how far the sport has come in just this last week. Football is now as real in New Zealand as it ever has been.

And as I got back home and collapsed into bed, my ears still ringing and head still buzzing, I thought to myself what a ride that was. And what a dream.

A dream that stretched beyond 94 minutes of football.

A dream that football in NZ grasped the moment and produced more moments like this in the future.

A dream that our Little Kickers would be the All Whites of the future – displaying the same passion, commitment and skill on the world stage in the years to come.

I had a dream last night. Then I fell asleep.


Friday 18 June 2010

Our Little Kickers NZ trip to the U.K.

I knew the plane trip to the U.K. with twin 20 month old boys would be a nightmare (which sadly it was) so at least it was nice to be sitting outside the next day wearing singlet and shorts in the hot sun watching a squirrel scatter along the fence posts.

My husband is English and our family went over for a relatives wedding and to see the in-laws so this was a perfect opportunity to meet some Little Kickers (‘LK’) staff and see some sessions in action (LK originated in the U.K. and is now the largest provider of football sessions to U.K. pre-school children). I first met up with Julia who is the longest standing Little Kickers franchisee who runs 30 + sessions (that’s more than 500 children a week– could you imagine it)! It was invaluable to meet someone who’s been involved in Little Kickers as a franchisee for so long, Her ‘tricks of the trade’ will definitely be implemented here in New Zealand, starting off with 3 goals instead of 2 for goal time. It was also great to see how she manages to run her very successful business all from home while still managing to enjoy time with her kids. I haven’t quite worked out that ideal work/life balance yet but I’m sure it will happen.

Next stop was LK Head Office out in Blewbury, Oxfordshire. It was worth the trip just to see the lovely countryside of bright yellow rapeseed glowing on the gently rolling hills. Even though I’m one to complain about the horrid English weather I will happily state that we were treated well during our trip (which I’m sure I will be reminded about by my English in-laws for the next month’s worth of Skype calls). I lived in the U.K. for 3 years and one of my bugbears about the U.K. was the grey gloomy dark skies during winter with a two-week gap for scorching hot weather during summer.

Enough about the weather though! The staff at Little Kickers Head Office were so lovely. I left feeling even more enthused about Little Kickers (if that’s possible) and how we can grow and offer even more children a kick-start into the wonderful game of football and sports in general.

What I do miss about the U.K. is the passion of football, even though I’d rather play sports than watch them I would say my favourite game to watch would be a premier league football match in England. Nearly every department store, pub and program on T.V. is concentrated around football. I was delighted to see that the All Whites win against Serbia was mentioned on the BBC TV News and to read about how many excited fans – including children – went to see the All Whites off.

I’m back home now, not quite over my jet lag but I have Saturday sessions to coach so I better be on top form by then.

Wednesday 16 June 2010


Last night I had the pleasure of going to see Derren Brown’s new show - “Enigma”. It was truly amazing, and even the biggest sceptics amongst the audience left utterly spellbound. We were asked as an audience not to reveal anything that goes on within the show, so as to not ruin it for others, so I will stand by my promise. If you get the chance to see it though, please do!

I have always been somewhat of a sceptic, and I have an annoying habit of digging for logical explanations. However I was amazed by the cynicism of some attendees who I overheard discussing the show on the way out of the theatre, and saying “they must have been actors” and “they’re all drama students”. Their basis for this utterance stemmed from the method of selection of audience participants, who were seemingly randomly chosen by means of a Frisbee being thrown into the crowd.

It irritated me slightly that people were so quick to pull the show apart. Even if they were all actors (and I am not suggesting this by any means), could we not just enjoy the spectacle, sit there and absorb brilliant showmanship and not dampen the experience by forming our own rationales? As a human race we have an innate urge to form an unequivocal reasoning for everything.

As a child I never doubted things I saw. When my Granddad told me that he had my nose – I wanted it back! When my Grandma told me that there was a coin behind my ear, I spent hours in the mirror looking for it, but, as if by magic, when she looked she managed to find it!

As we grow up we “grow out of” the ability to accept things for what they appear to be. We have a constant yearning to know the ins and outs of everything. Now, I realise that this has helped us develop science and technology to today’s advanced levels, and the evolution of the human race from Neanderthals to the sophisticated beings we are today would not have happened had this thirst for knowledge not been inbred (although if the Big Brother contestants are anything to go by, that is somewhat questionable!) However I can’t help but think that sometimes we take it too far.

At Little Kickers we love that our kids are just kids. And I also think our classes provide many parents with an element of escapism from their own ‘grown up’ world. For an hour a week, our kids can believe that they are stood on a pirate ship, or that they are in the jungle amongst tigers and lions. Our excellent coaches are taught to utilise the imagination of the children, and use games and techniques that develop sound basic football skills, but the children learn without realising they are doing so. So when they are running away from the sleeping bear, they are practicing turning, balance, awareness of space and other elements of football. Isn’t this the most fun way of learning?

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Kick It Out


In spite of valiant attempts by a number of bodies, and an overall sentiment that it is unacceptable, racism within Football has unfortunately never been fully eradicated. Fortunately instances of racism are becoming less common nowadays, but there are still murmurs in the terraces and whispers on the pitch.

At Little Kickers, we promote equality. Our sessions are inclusive of everyone, no matter what their race, background or gender. Unfortunately, due to the age of the children who attend our classes, there is sometimes a lack of awareness around racial differences because their everyday experiences are still limited, and also it has become such a controversial subject which many people find difficult to address. As a result of their limited exposure to the world, some of our children may have never spoken to a black man or woman, the same as some children may have never seen an Asian or Chinese man or woman. And because of this, there is a lack of understanding about differences in appearance.

At Little Kickers, we understand the importance of educating children in safe and fun surroundings. We also encourage children from different walks of life to get involved in our sessions, and our coaches come from a broad range of races and nationalities. Not only does this result in our sessions being inclusive, but it also encourages children to develop and understanding of cultural and social and physical differences in people. Football is a great tool in breaking down racial and social barriers, as Eusebio once said “Black or white, we all have football under our skin.”

In the same breath, we do not view the primary aim of our classes as breaking down racial barriers – our main objective is to provide kids with a fun introduction to sport. We realise the people we deal with at Little Kickers are more often than not like-minded, and we realise that it is only a small minority within the footballing community that still hold racist views. However, that small minority of people can still have an incredibly damaging effect on the lives of others and, for this reason, Little Kickers has decided to support the Kick It Out campaign ( Further details about this campaign can be found on the Little Kickers website.

We hope that through this campaign we can encourage everyone who attends our classes to view each other as individuals with a shared love of football, rather than differentiating people by their physical appearance.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Poetry Corner

Little Kickers

Our classes are fun and we aim to provide,
A fun filled program with no social divide,
The creed, the colour, the name doesn’t matter,
Kids learning football - parents sit and chatter.

The perfect recipe for expanding knowledge and skills,
With a family atmosphere, and very cool drills,
A wave of enthusiasm from our coaching team,
And banter from parents, makes this place a dream.

One thing I should tell you, and for this there’s no blame,
Little Kickers is not a guaranteed passport to fame,
Maybe we’ll produce the next Beckham or Best,
An ex-Little Kicker with New Zealands’s badge on their chest.

This is not why we do it, this I must stress,
There’s enough pressure on kids; it has become a mess.
So consider it escapism, a platform on which to build,
In a safe environment, our sessions are fun -filled.

Through our ‘play not push’ attitude, it’s easy to learn,
Skills such as listening, sharing, and taking turns,
Little Kickers has four different age groups all signed and sealed,
Which allows us to provide a very level playing field.

We want every child in the country to have this opportunity,
To enjoy Football in the manner it should be played, in unity,
So please get in contact, we are waiting for your call,
Learning, making friends and Football for one and all. (well… 18 months - 7 year olds!)

Thursday 29 April 2010

Childhood obesity – a weight off your mind.

Over the last ten years the colossal media publicity regarding the much debated topic of childhood obesity has seemed to die down somewhat, but the problem is not going away – if anything, it is getting worse. Recent figures from Canada suggest that 90% of pre schoolers are not getting the recommended 90 minutes of physical exercise they require each day. Increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the hectic pace of modern life etc all conspire to prevent us from ensuring that our kids have access to the amount of exercise they need. However a lot can be done, and we, at Little Kickers, feel it is our duty to help where we can.

Even the most proactive parents can struggle to motivate their children to get out and about. The lure of the Xbox is too much; Power Rangers is on TV, or the famous phrase “In a minute, Mum!” Trust me, this comes from my own personal experience. Now there is no excuse - summer has arrived. My official first day of summer is when my Dad’s legs come out in the o-so-very short shorts; admittedly my summer usually starts in February because of this! It was only today I was stood with my Dad wondering why the Frisbee appears larger the closer it gets….and then it hit me!

Apologies on the horrendous joke, we will move on. At Little Kickers we have the pleasure of teaching young kids football at weekly classes. Our experienced coaches deliver progressive and challenging sessions to aid learning and development of your children. Unfortunately, more often than not, we only get an hour a week with them. If we could, we would love to entertain them all week, but we feel we should allow you some time with them! We understand that Little Kickers has addictive qualities: our coaches, our games and the friends they make at the sessions, usually the hardest part of our sessions is trying to convince them that they need to go home!

Why not take Little Kickers with you? If you have a football, (if not we sell them on the website) why not find an hour during the busy week to go out and have a kick around. Some of my fondest memories as a child were kicking the ball as hard as I could at my Dad, he thought I was shooting; I was just waiting for the day he had to get out of the way from one of my shots. (If interested he moved when I was 13, on August 14th …true story!) I loved it, and I am sure your kids would too. Not only will it combat childhood obesity which, as mentioned, is an increasingly serious problem, but it will also compliment the skills they are learning at their Little Kickers sessions.

Unfortunately, the time we have available to spend with our kids is becoming more and more scarce as time goes by – the general stresses of modern life - work, chores, driving to and from activities etc, all conspire to prevent us from spending real quality time with our kids. I’m sure every parent reading this blog will have experienced their kids trying to copy what they do – pretending to speak on the phone or cook supper - after all, kids learn by example. Committing to taking just 30 minutes each day where you switch off the phone and tune out of the stresses of everyday life and focus 100% on playing physical games with your kids can have immeasurable benefits on their health (as well as your own!). It’s one thing taking them to activity classes so they can learn specific skills, but they are much more likely to view exercise as a routine part of their lives if they are doing it to mimic their parents.

There are a lot of things you can do; simply set up a target: a jumper, an empty flower pot etc. Compete against each other to see who can get nearest the target. Award points for the area the ball lands in. Why not play against each other? You will be amazed how competitive you get. Please be gentle with them, they are only young…performing celebratory dances after you have beaten them may damage their confidence somewhat! Encourage children to use both feet to kick with. Penalties are easy to set up, and siblings and parents can join in by going in goal, or help setting up obstacles. You’ll be amazed at how involved your children get in this type of game-playing.

With the holidays coming up, this is a perfect way to spend time with your child, doing what they really enjoy, leading by example and encouraging them to view sport as a normal, routine (but fun!) part of everyday life.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Little Kickers on BBC Working Lunch!

We were recently featured on BBC Working Lunch in the UK! You can view the video of us on the program here...

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