I love that I am a parent of a talented athlete. I dislike the fact that it drains my pocketbook. I never thought in a million years I would turn into one of those on-the-go “soccer moms.” But here I am, red minivan and all, driving across two states to my daughter’s first traveling weekend soccer tournament. Not only do I have to pay for club fees and coaching fees, I have to cover gas, hotel and food for a weekend away. And I either have to drag my two other kids along or find someone to watch them. Is it worth it?
A lot of people will say my daughter at 12 is too young to put that much time and effort into one sport. But what is the goal? College scholarship? Lifelong sport? Increased skills? Advancement? Exercise? Maybe — just maybe — I need to ask her? The simple answer is she wants to have fun playing soccer with friends. Improving her soccer skills at the same time is just a bonus. So can we have it all? Can kids play for fun, while learning the technical skills needed to excel without emptying their parents’ pocketbooks?
Yes, it can be done, according to Joy of the People. The Joy of the People organization, founded by Ted Kroeten, has created a new youth sports model that its backers believe will be the future of youth soccer development around the world. The movement is in response to the notion that kids today are overscheduled, over-coached and over-trained. They believe what kids need is time (and a safe place) to just play. They call it Free Play — a kid-driven, unstructured play time, and always at no cost. Too simple it could never work? Joy of the People believes it has created a unique environment, grooved and fine-tuned by kids and leaders over time to really bring back the lost language of unstructured play to create the best learning.
365 days a year, kids (and adults) can stop in to play soccer in a monitored, safe environment for FREE. Joy of the People believes its innovative vision will change the way people around the world think about sports. They believe in simplicity — that kids who play more will enjoy it more, learn social and leadership skills and have a better chance of reaching their potential. The idea is kids don’t have to be in an elite youth sport program to be top players. Instead, the most skillful soccer comes from love, time with friends and hours on the free play courts, where kids have opportunities to make and learn from mistakes and just enjoy playing.
Joy of the People is a nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota. To get started, it partnered with the City of St. Paul in 2009 to provide programming at a local recreation center. The program now provide more than 1,000 hours each year of safe, monitored free play soccer for kids of all ages and is in the process of building a world-class soccer center with a synthetic turf field and a one of a kind Puckelball field.
For more details on the organization and its vision, check out the website at www.joyofthepeople.org. Spread the word and use Joy of the People’s model to bring Free Play Soccer to your community.