Once again this year, Summer Soccer is teaching the fundamentals of the game to the very young.
And, even though the youngsters sometimes seem more interested in running around and playing their own games, they are learning some of the skills of the beautiful game.
Two groups of the youngest children in the Elks Soccer program – five and six year olds and seven to nine year olds – are being coached by Jacky Kruger-Babiuk.
“I’m teaching them how to play for real, but we also play,” she said. “We do lots of drills. I try to teach them how to play with a partner.”
She also teaches the 20 or so children divided between the two groups about passing and the basic rules of the game through a little bit of competition.
“And I switch it up every five minutes because kids get bored quick,” she said.
The fact that Kruger-Babiuk volunteered to coach the youngsters is remarkable in that she never previously played soccer.
“I’d never even kicked a ball,” she said.
Kruger-Babiuk said her two girls wanted to play soccer this year, but discovered the program for the younger kids didn’t have a coach.
“So I said, ‘What does it take to be a coach. I’ll do it. I have to take my kids there, anyway,'” she recalled.
Kruger-Babiuk then learned the rules of soccer to pass on to the children, starting on July 4 and continuing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
“I’m learning the rules and I’m teaching,” she said, noting she went onto the Internet to learn about soccer, including checking out videos on YouTube, and got advice from her friends and a nephew who play the game.
So far, Summer Soccer is fun, according to a couple of young players.
“I enjoy chasing the ball around and kicking it,” said five-year-old Belle Smith.
And six-year-old Riley Rose Bonnetrouge said the soccer is a lot of fun.
“I like kicking the ball and running,” she said.
Her mother, Dale Loutit, said Riley Rose loves playing soccer.
Loutit said it is good for the children to get outdoors and stay active.
Another parent praised Kruger-Babiuk for stepping forward to coach the children.
“Without her, these kids wouldn’t have soccer,” said Kelsey McGinley.
“People like this in the community help things keep running,” she said. “We really appreciate it.”
The outdoor program for the five and six year olds is expected to run to the end of July.
If there is interest, the program for the seven to nine year olds might run through August.
There is also a separate Summer Soccer group for ages 11 to 14 years being led by another coach.
After the summer, the Elks Soccer programs move indoors to gyms.