The Frozen Shorts Training Method (FSTM) was in full swing last night. A Town’s Youth Soccer “Board” has hired Frozen Shorts to mentor one of their five and six year old combined boys and girls House soccer team. What a wonderful fun filled night it was! But let me explain how we implement this paradigm from the beginning.
             The first thing we do is make a presentation to the entire “Board” at one of their regularly scheduled meetings. This presentation of our paradigm took approximately one hour. The indoctrination explains to them the problems with the current structure of youth sports practices and games, and ways to implement the Frozen Shorts Training Method (When we present this to coaches it normally takes about three hours).
            We emphasize having fun as the top priority for the children. The idea is to take what the children enjoy doing as children, which is to have fun playing, to their enjoyment, so they can learn to love being active. This leads to their physical and mental wellness being nurtured.  Youth Sports are not for the adults to control, and in some cases live vicariously through their children, and vent their own life’s frustrations, all in the supposed name of the children’s best interest.
            This is the beginning of the children’s journey through youth sports and we want to ensure it starts with as much fun as possible (and last night it did). Various examples and comparisons are made to adults’ work places, and the children’s own learning curve in school and play to help them understand what it is that we are trying to teach the children. PLAY FOR FUN.
            Structure is kept at a minimum and games are introduced to keep the children’s interest. Simon Says, Tag, and One Potato, are just a few of the games the children can play to help develop skills and have fun.  The practice scrimmage is explained as to how we let the kids play for fun in small sided groups. The coaches merely keep putting the ball back in play and cheer positively when the children make good plays.
            In this particular case the “Board” had questions as to the structure of exactly how the kids would be taught certain skills. I explained to them that if you watched most high school and “Club” games you would see the results of all this structured training. The skill level was not very impressive and the children did not seem to be having much fun. We are going to change that.
            Back to the field of play and where I am most excited to be. I got there early without the Director present and went from field to field and watched the coaches’ practices. The age groups ranged from five and six year olds all the way up to eleven and twelve year olds.
             The standard drills were being modeled and “executed.” There was a lot of standing around by the children and a lot of “coaching” being done. I can tell you this: after watching this go on for about fifteen minutes I got bored. I was probably the oldest and biggest kid on the field last night and I wasn’t getting excited to participate on any of these teams. Where was the fun?
            At one point there were approximately seventy percent of the kids standing around and only about thirty percent of the kids actually going through drills and playing soccer. Isn’t it ironic that that is about the same percentage of children who quit playing youth sports by the age of thirteen?
             Let me explain here that I am not criticizing  these coaches and what they were doing in any way shape or form. This is all they know and have seen as they and their kids have participated in youth sports. This is the paradigm they have been “trained’ to implement.
             (Our paradigm involves very little use of “cones” for the children.) I have yet to see “cones” on any playing field during a game and it baffles me as to why they hold such prominence in practice. Cones should be used primarily for boundaries and goals, that’s it.
            I am BIG time in favor of using “cones” in one particular part of youth sports--when the children are done with practice and go for ice cream cones. I am all for it! But I digress.
            Shouldn’t practice model, as much as possible, game situations? You do not get better standing around watching a game take place, so why should you stand around in practice?
            When the team’s practices were in full swing, I was led over to the first team we were going to mentor by the director. Standard drills were in full bloom. One parent was on the field “helping” the coaches with the drills. They were using the whole length of a shortened field which was still too much for the kids to handle.  So what happens next?  The coaches and one of the siblings’ older sisters start dribbling the ball down the field while the kids on the team watched and ran after them. We have all been there at some time. We have chased someone with no possible hope of catching them, and the person we are chasing knows it! It is very frustrating. Kids don’t need to practice that, do they?
            Coincidentally two college players were in attendance for this practice, and one was related to the coach. They soon asked if they could switch things up and they moved the nets to the sides, removed the coaches and parents from the drill, and let the kids play for fun.
            To be honest, one of the players was quite familiar with our paradigm as he and my son were very close friends growing up and were present when his dad and I had many conversations about youth sports. His brother coached the school districts Junior Varsity program the year before and had great success implementing the Frozen Shorts Coaching paradigm.
            Now the director was watching all of this and he wanted to know when the structure was going to be introduced. He wanted to know when the kids were going to learn soccer skills. He also commented that the kids just couldn’t run around  all “helter skelter” without any rules. How would they learn? Just then, as if on cue, but without any prompting from the coaches, one little girl said to her teammates, “Pass the ball.”
            You see, we say how smart the kids are now a days but when we get them on the playing field, we treat them like they are our personal remote controlled robots with joy sticks. The kids were figuring it out how to play with each other on their own.  In my experience that is a much longer lasting way to have kids learn than it is to just keep telling them what to do. They were using their own cognitive skills to help themselves enjoy the scrimmage.
            At the end of one scrimmage, when it was time for a water break, one young child told the coach she wanted to keep playing! GREAT!  We moved on to Simon Says and had one of the college kids be Simon, but at the end of Simon Says we had Simon say, “Chase the coach!” We instruct the coach to run around, not too far from the kids and in a zig zag motion. We instruct the coach to let the children tackle the coach at the end. Why, you ask? The chase lets the children learn stops and starts. It teaches them, without knowing, to work on their balance, get in shape, and be aware of the other children around them. In the end, catching the coach and pulling the coach down to the ground involves upper body strength, all in the name of fun.
            In the end, there was more laughter, smiles, and good times at this practice than there were in all the other practices combined for the six teams practicing on the huge field last night. But did we pass the ultimate test? As pleased, and I should say thrilled, as I was with what we accomplished with the children in the one hour practice, I knew if the parents watching weren’t happy and they complained, I’d have to fight the uphill battle of giving our paradigm more time to take hold. But I didn’t. One parent commented that this was the first time that they had actually seen their children play and all the parents were pleased with the outcome.
             I spoke with the assistant coach, who had never played sports before, and was a little hesitant to become an assistant, and she was thrilled. I instructed her to go to our website and watch the “POP WARNER” video we had done. I explained to her the “Frozen Shorts” paradigm and why we named our company Frozen Shorts (after all the kids who sit on the bench needlessly).  She walked away talking to people about Frozen Shorts, not me personally, but the (FSTM) paradigm was the hot topic.  
             As I was heading back to the car, I happened to walk up to the director and his wife, and they asked me if I would be willing to speak with another coach, and they reiterated to me how the parents, the children, and they had such a great time tonight. YEAH!!
            I want to thank the director and his wife for having the faith to believe in our program. Without their backing and willingness to try something new and different, last night, and future nights, would not have happened, or at least would have been much more difficult to implement.
            What most people do not understand, and we really don’t need them to understand at this level, is I am only taking the children’s natural propensity for play and having fun and enhancing it with activities that allow the kids to be kids. We blend in and mix together the skills it takes to play a certain sport with fun to create an atmosphere where a child can learn to fall in love with a sport, and by that I mean any sport, but learning the fundamentals of mental and physical health  through exercise in a fun way.
             By doing the FSTM this way, we are going for the long term health and wellness of the children. Not for some short sighted idea of winning and losing as being the priority in youth sports, and then somehow justifying it by saying we are teaching children life skills.
             Like in life, cooperation amongst people and a sense of community is way more important than winning and losing. Who is to say we can’t have both? If we have Balanced Excellence as the goal of our children’s youth sport’s experience, can’t we teach them to have fun, get along together, and enjoy the journey without all the unneeded stress present in today’s youth sports paradigm?