Football starts at home
With the birth of our first child, we began researching early childhood development. A year down the line, and the discoveries have been enlightening, but more than that, they’ve been massively rewarding to watch with our own child. We were astounded to discover how early a child learns ball skills, and in fact, any other skill needed in life. Football starts at home, and it starts early.
How early are we talking? As early as the first 14 months of their life. It just so happens that physical development (especially mobility – for which, as athletes, we are exceptionally passionate about) is the foundation for emotional, social, and cognitive development.
This statement is astounding. I’ve always been passionate about raising children (even before I became a dad). But, when I came across the plethora of scientific research behind the importance of the first couple of years, it gave me a greater determination to help children thrive in their unique intelligence.
A way of life with our daughter has unfolded and it looks like being present, spending quality time with her, learning about the best way to encourage her development, and giving her enough opportunities to explore and overcome. This has led us to see that football starts at home.
One of the things I occasionally do when I play outside with her is, of course, kick a ball. This is just a simple example of how football starts at home. I never intentionally taught Aria to kick a ball. I’ve thrown a softball toward her and encouraged her to throw it back. I’ve rolled her on top of balls and bounced her on balls. With her only being 11 months, I didn’t think of teaching her to kick a ball.
My wife and I were amazed to watch her kick a ball and then dribble it and pass it between her feet. My wife managed to catch a video of it one day (as our daughter kicks the ball when she wants to, not when we ask her to).
Parents have the greatest influence
All she had done was watch me kick a ball and not with any noticeable amount of focus. She would be walking around behind me, playing in her sandpit, picking up stones, and attempting to eat them. She wasn’t sitting and staring at me. This is a wonderful picture of the power of a baby’s brain.
All this to say, parents desire the best for their children and have the greatest influence on their development and learning. No matter what age your child is currently, be encouraged, football starts at home. When parents are engaged with their child’s practice, when they are simply present, it can make an exponential difference.
Just kicking a ball with them or demonstrating a ball skill at home gives them the opportunity to observe ball skills from an early age. Even if you have zero ball skills and no idea how to play football, watching them play boosts their confidence. There’s a vital rule: encouragement is key.
A parent’s role in development is paramount
A parent’s role in fostering their child’s development is paramount. It is ingrained in every child to deeply desire their parents’ attention, approval, and praise. When parents engage with them in this positive way it creates a positive learning environment that assists their current and future learning. Positive emotions that naturally come from parent-child bonding sessions assist deep learning and long-term memory.
When football starts at home, we are fostering a love for it and building a strong association of fun to sport and playing outside. It’s important that fun is established before the game is taught. This love and the fun that is created is what carries them through the tougher seasons of learning.
As a coach and parent, I am firmly against putting pressure on children. Pressure creates stress and stress is one of the great hindrances to cognitive development, in fact to any development. I’m also against forcing children into enjoying something that they don’t naturally want to do. When football starts at home, it creates memories of a safe, stress-free and fun environment for the sport.
Our daughter may or may not want to play football one day. What we’re passionate about is giving her the best possible start, so that she can confidently thrive in whatever her interests may be. Let’s be honest here, I’m hoping one of them is football. But if it’s not, that ok, that’s why I swim with her, read to her, listen to music with her, dance with her, teach her about logic, etc. One day, we’ll know which interests she’ll have, and I think she’ll appreciate her early introduction to them.
The foundation level of a child’s development is perhaps the most important, and as parents, we have the opportunity to make it a strong one. Football starts at home!