Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Hidden Skill in a Simple Game

Cast your mind back to when you were younger – I will pause here as this may take some of you longer than others – ready? OK!  Think about when you were at school, and I imagine that you would have taken a greater interest in the subjects that were taught in a fun and exciting way. The principles and fundamentals of learning were still in place, just cleverly disguised in a fun and active environment that allowed you to simply enjoy the experience, rather than to over-analyse what you were learning, and the learning process.

The child’s perspective
When you bring your child along to Little Kickers classes you will notice that, first and foremost, your child is having a great time and thoroughly enjoying playing active games with other children which stretch his / her imagination.  This is the child’s perspective of Little Kickers. 

The parent / teacher’s perspective
As a parent, you will most likely have noticed that, in addition to having a great time, your child is also developing invaluable social skills like listening, sharing, taking turns and teamwork.  These skills are consciously woven into our programmes, together with other early learning concepts such as colour and number recognition and the development of physical skills such as balance, agility and co-ordination. 

The coaches’ perspective
So far so good, but one of the other key skills your coach is encouraging your child to develop (often unbeknownst to your child, who just thinks he / she is having a great time rescuing treasure from pirates / trying not to wake the sleeping bear etc!), is a basic grasp of the fundamentals of football. When you hear the coach tell the Little Kickers that they are going to do ‘big lion kicks”; – what the children are actually learning is timing, weight of pass and a variable kicking action. Similarly, they may be asked to do small, quiet kicks so that they do not wake the sleeping coach - in reality they are learning close control, dribbling, awareness, space evasion and invasion. Our coaches disguise these skills deliberately, so that the children can just concentrate on enjoying the activity.

The skills hidden in a simple game

To the untrained eye a simple game, such as ‘Football Tennis’ above, may look like organised chaos. Travel deeper into the underlying reasons as to why that game was created, and you will find that this simple game promotes the development of an array of different skills. If you are not familiar with this simple game, the children are told that they are Pirates, and with their cannon balls (the footballs) they have to try to sink the opposition’s ship. Now, due to the powerfully imaginative nature of children’s minds, the theme of the game will be accepted and unquestioned, and what is more, the game gives the children the opportunity to use their own imaginations to seek and fill missing elements of the “story”. Meanwhile, the coaches can see the developmental process in full flow. While the children fire numerous cannonballs, the children are improving their first touch, weight of pass, multidirectional play, awareness of space, dribbling, improving their perception of boundaries, accuracy and teamwork skills.  That’s a lot of hidden learning in a simple game!

The Little Kickers programme has been developed over the past 10 years with input from FA qualified coaches, early childhood and school teachers, child health specialists and pro-active parents.  We understand that kids learn better when they are having fun, and our programmes reflect this.   

So next time you are sitting watching one of our sessions, why not see if you can pick out the skills that your child is learning?  If you can’t spot them, and you would like to find out more, do not hesitate to ask the coach.

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