When you coach a sport that your children also play, you get a firsthand view of not only how they learn and develop at practices and matches, but also at home. Soccer takes an incredible amount of finesse and skill to master. Controlling a ball with your foot in a fast paced pressured environment means you need to touch the ball a LOT when you’re younger. Like basketball where dribbling ‘blind’ is essential, in soccer you have to be able to dribble almost subconsciously.

So coaches know it is SO important for kids to just ‘play’ on their own. I have four kids who play competitive travel soccer and they grew up somewhere with a LOT of yard space. Acres. Yet they didn’t play on their own. My kids live, eat, and breathe soccer – when they’re at the soccer complex. They’ll hang out there all day long if they can. But at home, they rarely would go outside to play. Wary of being that overbearing coach/parent, I rarely pushed. I made sure they had portable goals, plenty of soccer balls, and they always knew my coach’s bag was stuffed with gear. But the choice to go outside and actually play was theirs. (OK sure I occasionally would go out on my own and try to coax them out)

When my ex and I separated, she kept the family home with all the yard and I moved somewhere with a yard that was, well, almost a suggestion. The back was angled and tiered. The front has two massive trees and a long cement walkway through the middle. In this economy finding a place to rent for four kids is an adventure, so I jumped at the chance to live here when it became available. But I knew my kids wouldn’t be able to ever really play soccer here. Since they didn’t play much where they had tons of space – I wasn’t too worried about it.

Shows how much I know…

The grass in our front yard used to be thick and plush... Not anymore!

The grass in our front yard used to be thick and plush… Not anymore!

This is our front yard… The grass used to be thick and plush after much TLC last fall. At best it’s 8 yards from the front porch to that portable goal. There’s a huge yucca plant with sharp leaves that hurt if you run into it. A few large roots from the massive tree to the left. Yet my children have carved out their own little soccer field and they play out there ALL the time. Shooting, doing tricks, playing 1v1, or some form of CalvinBall. That bare area is honestly the ONLY flat area in our yard – and they’ve commandeered it. All that wear is from the past few months once it got warm enough. Sure – they’ll occasionally take the goal to the neighbors bigger flatter yard, but clearly size/space/hazards aren’t standing in their way…

So I guess it doesn’t really matter how much yard you have – if your kids decide they want to play – they’ll find a way to play!  No clue WHY they suddenly are playing so much on such a tiny patch of grass, but I’m thrilled they are!