Kids coaching kids: Blue Jays heading up youth soccer programs
A group of Jamestown High School soccer players is coaching up two youth soccer teams this summer.
A group of 10 Blue Jay soccer players are given reasons to smile for at least an hour every Tuesday and Thursday night.
"I got into coaching because I love being around the game," Connor Traut said. "I wanted to make an impact on the development of these younger kids in hopes to make them the best players possible. I also love seeing the smiles and the overall love they have for the game.
"One thing I like about coaching these younger kids is just how pure they are — they never fail to make you smile or laugh."
Traut along with three other Blue Jay boys soccer players, Dylan Altringer, Brady Harty and Cashton Bollinger, have been tasked with the challenge of coaching up the Jamestown Soccer Club's youth U8 soccer team.
Peyton Waliser, Hannah Murchie, Claire Frohlich, Liv Frohlich, Reece Christ and Olivia Sorlie — all Blue Jay girls varsity soccer team members — are coaching the U6 soccer players.
"A lot of what we coach them is controlling the ball and how to play with their teammates," Frohlich said. "This experience has taught me how to be more patient, I have to remind myself they’re little and very excited.
"The kids are just fun to work with, I love seeing how excited they are to be there and they aren’t afraid to be goofy around us which definitely makes it fun. I would love to continue coaching when I come back for the summer."
The concept of high schoolers being responsible for teaching the fundamentals of the game is a relatively new one. Most of the current high schoolers only remember being coached by college students, parents or University of Jamestown soccer coaches.
"When Brady (Harty) was little, we were in Bismarck at the time and there were college kids from the University of Mary that coached him," JHS head boys soccer coach Brandi Harty said. "When I was in Jamestown for college we helped out with the youth programs a little bit but I don't believe the high school kids helped as much as they do now. It kind of varies from club to club."
Harty said that the Jamestown youth soccer club has changed within the last couple of years as the club no longer has the same director of coaching — a change that has brought about more opportunities for Blue Jay soccer players to get involved.
Harty said if players have the desire to continue coaching, they can keep with it and obtain their E license, which would allow them to coach at a higher level as they get experience.
To coach at the youth level, Harty said there is no hard and fast qualifications other than that the kids coaching have played and understand the fundamentals of the game.
"The goal is to catch them when they are younger and that they find it interesting and it's something that they pursue in the future," Harty said. "They really do enjoy working with these kids and seeing how successful they are at the end of the session.
"The boys have a few returners from the first session who are now doing the second session and it's kind of neat to watch them interact with those boys and girls again because they know them."
This year, there have been two sessions — the first running from April 12 to May 26, and then after a 10-day break the second session began. The summer session will conclude on July 21.
"Brandi asked me to help her last year with the U8s because my sister was in that group," Sorlie said. "I volunteered this year after hearing that I could help coach again.
"I would like to continue coaching the U6s and U8s through the rest of my high school years. Coaching has taught me to be very patient with the young players. It has also taught me to find alternative ways to do drills and get the players to listen and interact."
Each age group — the U6s and U8s — is usually divided into a couple of smaller groups to try and make it easier on the teens to contain the energy and excitement.
"I try to have two coaches per field," Harty said. "There's still lots of kids playing so it's always nice to have two of the coaches together because if a kid is having a hard time or needs help tying a shoe then one coach can focus on helping that child and the other one can keep coaching."
So what does coaching elementary school kids actually look like? Is it controlling chaos or actually teaching skills?
According to Sorlie — it's a little bit of both.
"Although controlling the chaos is some of the responsibilities we have as coaches, coaching them on actual skills positioning to help better their performance is the most important job we have," Sorlie said.
To warm up, Sorlie said the kids just dribble and focus on their footwork. Sometimes there will be relays that focus on dribbling through the cones, controlling the ball, and getting small touches on the ball. Toward the end of practice there is usually a 4-on-4 scrimmage that works on the kids' passing, positioning and getting open for their teammates.
"I always wanted to coach once I got to the age," Brady said. "The thing that we focus on the most is playing as a team because we are getting them ready to play at older ages.
"I like how much energy the kids have and how they want to learn to play soccer. It is nice coaching the kids — it has helped my presenting skills."
Practices are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. out at the Jaycee Soccer Complex.
Harty sends out a practice sheet to the youth coaches so they know what should be covered throughout the hour. Harty said from there, it is kind of up to the high schoolers with how they want to approach the ins and outs of the practice.
"I think this experience has taught me how to explain things in simpler terms so I’m understood," Traut said. "I also think that it has taught me immense patience. It can get a little chaotic at times but that’s expected with these younger kids. It’s just about balance."
The U6 age group does not play any outside competition but the youth teams play some friendly games like in the Jamestown Jamboree that was held out at the complex on June 11.
While its mostly practices and scrimmages youth soccer players sign up for, Harty said if the U8 team gets enough support from the parents, they will be traveling to Mandan to play in the 2022 Splashdown Tournament July 22-24.
"I see a great future for the Blue Jay soccer teams," Sorlie said. "There is a great number of kids wanting to play, and if they stick with it, the soccer program won’t be low on numbers. The kids seem to enjoy it and they work hard during the hour that I see them."
"In bigger communities you will see a lot more college players coaching and we do have college players that help but in the summer, a lot of them move away. That's why our high school has taken over these kids a little bit and it is a really good thing."