Tim Bradbury is director of coaching of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association. (Photo courtesy of ENYYSA)

By Tim Bradbury
Director of coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

Some months, I spend a great deal of time pondering over which topic in youth soccer to write about, often I ask colleagues and fellow coaching educators if they have any thoughts on what I should discuss.

This one was easier than most and due to the season and the associated idea of giving, what better time is there to discuss all the great things that youth sports can offer? As you read the thoughts below, it is worth every parent, coach and club leader considering how far we have gotten away from all the truly great gifts sports can offer.

So, to highlight the obvious positives:

• An opportunity to exercise and explore the physical arena – fitness, flexibility, range of movement, skipping, running and jumping.

• An opportunity to fall in love with sport, movement and stay fit for life.

• An opportunity to learn skills, tactics and fall in love with a sport or two.

• An opportunity to be part of a team and become fully aware that serving and helping others will bring more joy and reward than constantly seeking one’s own desires.

• An opportunity to be part of a team and forge a network of lifelong friends, people that will have you back long after the final whistle in the final game has ended.

• An opportunity to learn vital life skills: resilience, determination, discipline, bravery, grit, reliability, communication and, of course, teamwork.

• An opportunity to develop leadership traits.

What should be obvious and apparent that in 99 percent of youth sports environments, adults are failing to provide children with the enormous opportunity that youth sports can provide. The reasons are apparent and so obvious that all are aware of them as youth sports are dominated at all ages by a disturbing desire to PUT WINNING BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, to PUT personal success before the SUCCESS OF THE TEAM. We live in a culture where the true nature and benefits of youth sports has become lost.

Unfortunately, in the vacuum left behind, the social media frenzy and the electronic world seem unable to offer the same potential that a good sports environment can provide.

The message is a simple one. Let’s get back to helping youth soccer provide all the truly wonderful gifts that it can provide. Few gifts can bring the riches sports does.