Tim's striving to take big steps with Northern Ireland's little ones
Published 30/05/2013 | 07:50
Get them early and they'll enjoy it for life. That's the message from youth coach Tim Wareing in relation to bringing kids into football.
As well as his other programmes for older children, Tim runs Toddler Soccer Schools for those aged between two and five.
Too young? Not according to this coach.
"Our ideas behind it are for the kids to enjoy the session and for them to get fit, healthy and active. At that age, they are like a sponge, so they take information and ideas on really well," he says.
Having watched a session of this particular age group in an east Belfast church hall recently, he is right when he says the kids have fun.
Thanks to the skills and personalities of 'coach Garth' and 'coach Daniel', as the youngsters call them, every single one of the children left after 45 minutes with a smile on their face, having enjoying the experience of a ball at their feet.
The Toddler programmes are adapted to suit the age group.
Wareing explains: "Where you would find with older children they would get motivated by showing them the skills of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, what we found with the younger children was that story telling was what they enjoyed and we would use popular cartoon characters such as Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story to do different skills instead of Messi and Ronaldo.
"Also another of the games we do is pretend the ball is a puppy dog and that their foot is the collar and their leg is the lead and for them to take the dog for a walk. That encourages them to keep the ball nice and close to them and then we show them how the puppy dog can do different tricks, like rolling over so we have three year-olds doing dragbacks!
"With the Toddler courses, you have to be an entertainer as well as coach and be able to lose your inhibitions to ensure the kids have fun and bring the class to life.
"We like our coaches to have a bubbly personality and an infectious love of the game and children. I would always say to staff if they aren't enjoying it they won't be able to motivate 10 or 15 children to enjoy it.
"We have a programme for coaches to follow but we do allow them freedom as well, because I don't want them to become robots."
Wareing says that when he initially approached the Irish FA with this plan for the kids, he was knocked back.
"We went to the IFA with the idea and the concept but they didn't take to it at all. I guess that gave us the incentive to go out and get kids interested in football at an early age and get them enjoying the game," he says.
"It does frustrate me with football in Northern Ireland that it seems to be 'our way or no way'. I wish the authorities would be more open minded and embrace new ideas. Certainly I would like to see people from the IFA to come and take a look at our centres and what we are doing.
"We make sure that our coaches are qualified, they are background checked, we have insurances for the programme and what we are trying to do is develop kids. Unfortunately though they look at us as competition rather than embracing what we are trying to do all around the country."