Smithfield Youth Soccer Association—A Town Comes Together Through Soccer
At younger age levels, youth soccer is very much a family experience. Not only are parents cheerleaders, but they are often the volunteer parent coaches. Administrators across the country rely upon the volunteer parent coach to provide the younger players with their early soccer development.
Inherent challenges for soccer organizations
This brings about many common challenges to soccer organizations everywhere:
Getting parental involvement
Attracting volunteer coaches
Getting sponsors and funding
Volunteer parent coaches are hard to find and often don't come back after the first year, because coaching can be scary for many moms and dads. This is especially the case if they have never played or coached the game before and they are now asked to be part of the child’s (and the entire team's) early soccer education.
With all these challenges for soccer clubs in mind, Xara developed a series of 4 educational soccer programs that can be used by parent coaches to develop young players, while also enhancing the soccer experience for everyone. Each program provides — not only an age-appropriate approach to the game — but also a skill-appropriate and fun approach to the game. This allows for the natural growth and progression of everyone involved. It also brings excitement to the game and makes it fun for the kids, as well as the parents, to be involved in soccer.
A club needing help
Smithfield Youth Soccer Association in Smithfield, Rhode Island — a charming little town an hour from Boston — was experiencing all of the typical challenges, and like many soccer programs today, they did not have the volunteers that they needed. Parents weren't as involved as they could be and the growth was not what they wanted.
Smithfield realized they needed to do something. “Four years ago, our association board of directors discussed different ideas that would infuse more excitement into our league. We wanted to create a buzz that would make the game fun for the kids, encourage more parent involvement, and intertwine our association with the business community”, said Bob Squillante (President of Smithfield Youth Soccer Association).
That's when Smithfield heard about Xara's programs and started up with Xara's Dinomites Program.
Xara's Dinomites Program
The Dinomites program is a 10-week, age-specific program that is a step-by-step interactive development guide for youth soccer organizations that run U5 and U6 programs.
The Dinomites Program includes a curriculum that volunteer coaches can easily understand. It helps them successfully run practices — guiding them through the entire season. The program was developed to lead a club to success and engage involvement in many ways:
Provide support to volunteer coaches
Assist the coaches in having a positive coaching experience
Reduce fears of first-time coaches
Increase coach retention figures
Fully engage moms and dads
Provide a memorable first soccer experience for everyone
Differentiate programs from others nearby
Increase parent support and engagement, while minimizing parent complaints
Increase volunteer numbers
Smithfield Youth Soccer Association Success
Youth soccer has shrunken 2% over the years, while Smithfield has grown using Xara soccer programs, such as the Dinomites Program.
"Since we introduced the Dinomites program, our numbers have grown from 60 players to 160 players at the U5 level. We had to close out registration last year, and we have a waiting list of families who wish to get involved."
The Dinomites Program provides age-appropriate soccer skills to kids, while offering fun and fitness. It also provides volunteer coaches with the tools to deliver an authentic soccer experience to create a learning environment that reaches beyond soccer.
"The Dinomites program is perfect, because it is a complete curriculum that is appropriate for young kids. In the past, I used to put together materials for the coaches, which was technically sound, but not as much fun for the kids", said Bill Hickey (Director of Coaching for Smithfield Youth Soccer Association).
For the organization, it helps them support the volunteer coach as a tool to ease fears of inexperience, and educate on coaching. "The Dinomites curriculum allows for a consistent approach from the coaches in our program, some of whom have not ever played the game or coached anything in the past. The step-by-step lesson plan has taken the fear away from our inexperienced coaches and has provided them support, confidence, and passion for teaching the game", said Bob Squillante (President of Smithfield Youth Soccer Association).
The program also engages moms and dads by actually including their participation in the activities that are in the curriculum, so it becomes a family experience. Instead of being on the sidelines, they are more involved and are more engaged emotionally too.
The curriculum is based around the adventures of Dino and his sister Deana. It has 3 principles that act as its foundation — storytelling, imagination, and play.
"Everyone gets into the stories and we see coaches and parents on the field dressed up and involved. It brings a smile to all to watch these future stars loving the game of soccer. Your league is only as strong as your volunteers. The Dinomites curriculum has made coaching easier, more fun, and has contributed to an increase of volunteer coaches who continue to take their teachings to the next age level. It is a win-win-win for our youth players, coaches, and parents", said BobSquillante (President of Smithfield Youth Soccer Association).