New Soccer Program Wants To Make Learning Skills Fun

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NY Soccer Skills is a new Manhattan-based youth soccer program offering classes for young players ages 4-10. Pete Cafarchio, head of operations, gives some insight into the new program. Pete, originally from Syracuse, played sports while growing up. He now has two daughters so he’s experienced youth sports from both sides of the fence – as a participant and as a parent.

NY Soccer Skills is new to the NYC youth sports scene. Why did you feel there was room for another youth soccer program?  

From speaking with parents of younger children in the city, I began to realize the growing popularity of soccer in NYC. However, I was also hearing that sometimes the existing soccer programs had either an unstructured focus on fun (glorified daycare) or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, were ultra-ultra competitive. Parents told me that there weren’t any real options that combined an enjoyable learning environment, with structured coaching to actually learn new soccer skills.

What makes NY Soccer Skills (NYSS) different than other youth soccer programs?

We feel that young players can have fun AND learn new skills at the same time. In our experience young players, whether new to soccer or with some prior experience, like to be challenged and need some structure. We believe the sooner players learn the right technique the quicker they will start to enjoy and fall in love with the game.

Our coaches offer each player two progress reports over the course of our 10-week class. The report allows the player and parents to see their progress in certain core areas (for example, dribbling, turning, awareness, passing). Each report acts as a learning aid rather than a benchmarking tool. Reports are age-appropriate and always encouraging.

In addition, we provide summary handouts to take away after each session, again allowing parents to better understand what we have been working on during the class. NYSS coaches are also intentional about discussing positive character traits with our students (working hard, trying out and applying new skills, not giving up, teamwork, friendship). We consider it a privilege to coach and mold the lives of young players and children. We take this responsibility extremely seriously and strive to be inspiring, positive role models at all times. We also limit class sizes so the there’s always a good coach-to-student ratio. 

What in your background prepared you to launch a youth sports company?

Having played sports, I know how critical it is to have a positive coach; they can make or break a kid’s outlook on sports. And, I raised daughters who participated in sports, so I fully understand the frustration of parents who are looking for good quality coaching within a positive learning environment.

In the past, I’ve successfully launched other companies, product lines, and volunteer organizations, and experience has taught me a lot about what works, and what doesn’t.

I also have a good eye for spotting coaching talent, and the strength of our coaches is critically important. I’m just the organizer – they’re the real backbone of the company.

What do you look for when you hire a coach to work with kids?

Most importantly we look for individuals who are educators and who can connect with children. Being a role model and having the ability to understand the learning styles of each player is vital for us. Children don’t know how much you know until they know how much you care. If a potential coach can do all these things, only then do we then consider their soccer coaching experience. 

Why is it important for young soccer players to learn specific skills before graduating to game play?

We feel that players need to have their soccer foundations in place before they can start to really develop in the sport and fall in love with the game. Until they have learned the mechanics they will be frustrated. It’s like a treasure hunt without the map. Also, the earlier a player can learn the right technique the less time has to be spent on correcting bad habits later.

On the other hand, we do believe there is a time where players should be allowed to just play (and our classes do create space for this). As coaches we can only say so much and we need to let the players to work it out for themselves. “Over coaching” can kill a player’s joy for the game, so there’s a balance that’s needed. The game itself is the best coach.

What would a parent be surprised to hear about teaching soccer to a 4- to 10-year old?

1) Your kids are always paying attention. Children don’t verbalize things the way adults do. But they are like sponges, and quickly pick up skills but also attitudes. That’s why it’s so important to lay a strong foundation.

2) The years between ages 4-10 are the most critical formative years in soccer education. Teaching a player the correct technique during these years allows them to move forward towards more complex skills much more smoothly in the future.

3) Soccer forces players to make lots of unique decisions and choices. And that decision-making process helps them both on and off the soccer field.

What was the best advice you got from a coach?

Two things: 1) Be the best YOU that you can be, and 2) just keep at it – some things don’t come quickly, but over time you’ll be amazed at how much you can improve if you don’t give up.

For more information about NY Soccer Skills go to https://nysoccer-skills.com

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