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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
With youth sports participation plummeting nationwide, and travel sports growing more competitive and more costly every day, the idea of a soccer skills clinic for a bunch of kindergarteners sounds like it could be an over-competitive nightmare.
Instead, the kids of Westwood spent their Sunday morning laughing, smiling and secretly learning the most basic tenets of the game.
Miles Alden-Dunn, a former collegiate soccer player that trained with the New England Revolution, explained how over the years of teaching kids soccer, his company has come up with a series of game-based drills that teach soccer skills to the children, seemingly unconsciously.
“We run this for Westwood, and we’ve been doing this for ten years now, so we kind of work with kids every day all over eastern Massachusetts,” said Alden-Dunn. “So, we have kind of a collection of drills that have worked, and the ones that haven’t worked we don’t run anymore. We try to keep it fun with the kids so they’re learning without knowing they’re learning, in sort of a game setting.”
For example, Alden-Dunn had a wide variety of “tag” based games. In one, players that were tagged while dribbling were supposed to pick up their ball, freeze, and spread their legs apart. To bring them back to life, kids who were still alive could “nutmeg” them (that is, kick the ball between their legs) to unfreeze them. In another variation, coaches Alden-Dunn and Aidan Harrison “tagged” players by taking the ball away from them. Even when they were running, coaches used a “red light, green light” variation: red light meant to stop, green light meant to go, yellow light meant to stop and tap the top of the ball with one’s foot, alternating between left and right. At one point, the coaches added in another light that meant the players had to dance, precipitating a lot of flossing.
Even during a scrimmage, coach Alden-Dunn tried to get the players to spread out by saying he had a fishing net, and if they didn’t spread out, they would be caught.
One little girl got some extra conditioning work when Alden-Dunn told the players to find their parents, get some water and be back in thirty seconds. As the girl’s mom had wandered off with a younger sibling, the poor kid ended up doing what amounted to a 200-yard wind-sprint.
Still, it was clear the kids were having fun, a fact that was not lost on the parents watching.
“This has been a great experience. I’m really proud of the coaches, and all the hard work the kids are doing,” James Lamb noted.
“This is the first time, and my daughter’s all about it. She’s really excited.”