Preparing your child to play European football
Soccer, known as football in most other parts of the world, has become incredibly popular in North America in recent years. David Beckham's move to Los Angeles in 2007 seemed to solidify soccer's status in American sports.
If your little one has taken a shine to "the beautiful game," you're sure to find a youth soccer club in your town or city. Generally cheaper than youth hockey or football, soccer is a relatively inexpensive way to develop your child's coordination, improve his or her fitness, and encourage such skills as teamwork and leadership. On top of which, they'll have fun!
Youth Soccer Clubs
There are many youth soccer organizations, but the most prominent is the United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA), also known as US Youth Soccer. This body is a division of US Soccer and is essentially the Little League or Pop Warner of soccer.
US Youth Soccer operates in every state and is the largest member of the US Soccer Federation, the governing body for soccer in the United States. At last count, USYSA comprised 3,000,000 players ages 5 to 19, along with 600,000 volunteers and administrators, and 300,000 coaches.
For younger participants, programs focus on fun, skill development, and character building. Emphasis is placed on teamwork, participation, and effort rather than competition. Coaches run a variety of youth soccer drills to help players learn ball handling, passing, shooting, and general movement (coordination, balance). More importantly, these drills teach perseverance, teamwork, leadership, and personal growth. Participants in younger age groups also participate in small games (3 on 3, 4 on 4, etc.), but players are rewarded for their efforts and participation, not for their performance or outcomes.
Youth Soccer Uniforms
Most youth soccer uniforms consist of a team t-shirt and perhaps socks in the team colors. Players may be required to wear a particular color of soccer or athletic shorts, as well, but the actual style and brand is often left up to preference, so you can usually use shorts already in your child's wardrobe or buy a cheap pair.
Of course, you'll also want to provide your child with protective gear such as an athletic cup and shin guards. These may not be necessary at the lower levels -- consult your league's administrator or the team's coach for specific equipment guidelines.
One of the most important pieces of any soccer uniform is the shoes. Even for youth, soccer cleats are often required, and if your child is playing on turf or participating in an indoor soccer league, you may still be required to purchase youth soccer shoes specially designed for such surfaces.
Although it can be tempting to anticipate your child's inevitable growth spurt when purchasing equipment, it is important that all equipment fit properly in order to provide maximum protection. Ill-fitting shoes, for example, can lead to trips and falls, as well as sprained, strained, or even broken ankles as a result of too much foot movement within the shoe.