Kicking, soccer's most basic act, is also its most enjoyable and important act.
It's an immensely creative and enjoyable release for children. I have absolutely no proven child-pysch theory to document that statement - although there probably is such a theory somewhere - but base it on a simple observation I've seen repeated dozens of times.
Take a child just beyond the todding stage, put a small rubber ball in front of him and kick it a couple of times so the idea sinks in. Then stand back and watch him grin as he repeats the act again and again.
Get in there and kick the ball back and forth to him once in a while. You are watching the birth of a soccer star.
Because kicking a ball is so simple and enjoyable, there are some dangers that may cause an overzealous parent to dim a childs's enthusiasm. Don't over-complicate the act just because junior catches on quickly. Kicking seems easy, but remember that in competition it will become much more difficult. So view the early stages of kicking as a way of building confidence and skill.
Don't start a young child (say, up to seven years old) kicking a regulation size and weight soccer ball. They're generally too heavy for a child and don't travel very far when kicked. (They're also expensive - $25 or so - and the leather ones may not take rough play on a schoolyard or street very well.) Nothing will dampen a child's spirits more than kicking a ball as hard as he can and watching it slowly roll only a few feet. Also, it may sting a child's foot to kick the heavier ball. Nature conditions even the youngest of us to say, "If it hurts, don't do it." Hurt toes tuin zeal.
Instead, follow the advice of most soccer pros - begin with any kind of lightweight rubber ball. Get one of those spectacularly colored ones with speckles and stars - you know, the ones small children are always bouncing all over drug stores an supermarkets, driving parents and store managers crazy. A small ball is preferred because, to kick it well, a child must watch it closely and meet it squarely with some part of his foot. That teaches concentration and gets the child kicking for a spot on the ball.
The nice thing about a smallish rubber ball is that practically any contact with it will send it rolling and boucing, which is just what a child enjoys seeing.
If the ball is too small, a child might do a lot of kicking-and-missing, which often results in his being propelled downward into a seated position on the ground. That, of course, can severly detract from his enjoyment. The solution is to switch to a larger, but not necessarily heavier, rubber ball.
Don't try to alter a child's kicking style. Let him kick any way he seems comfortable. Encourage him to kick with his instep, but he'll probably kick a lot with the front of his toes. There's plenty of time to teach him the various special types of kick. Most kids are mainly interested in kicking hard, and that should be encouraged.
Retrieving a kicked soccer ball is not what your average child considers exciting, but he may want to practice on his own, so it's a good idea to designate a particular side of the house, garage, fence or other handy wall. Actually, junior will benefit in two ways - he'll get his kicking in and, when the ball rebounds, he'll improve his quickness by positioning himself to kick the ball again.
There's nothing like a little competition to get a child excited about practicing. Try playing a game called "kick goals" with him. This game requires advancing the ball upfield on kick at a time and stresses long, hard, accurate kicking.
Designate two "goals," one at your end of the field and one at his. Let your child begin by kicking once as hard as he can from his end of the field toward your goal. From wherever you stop the ball, kick it once back toward his goal. He then stops your kick and, from wherever he stops it, kicks it once back toward you. A shot into the goal, of course, is a point.
Make the goals, particularly the one you're defending, very wide. Don't kick your hardest.Keep the games close, but let him win most of the time. Joke about weak kicks, praise the strong ones and don't complicate things. The child walked before he ran; he must kick before he can play.