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How To Watch Soccer With Your Children

Playsoccer Spring 2008

Soccer broadcaster Allen Hopkins has been announcing games since 2006 and has managed to bring his children Sydney, 6, and Santiago, 5, along for the wonderful ride. First, they saw him on Fox Soccer Channel as he did the play-by- play for Major League Soccer (MLS) and German Bundesliga (top division) games. Then they watched him cover the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and report on the sidelines at MLS games on ESPN.

His kids have played AYSO since they were old enough to join and that's no surprise. Allen is no stranger to athletics himself. After a successful collegiate soccer career at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., he continued playing in both the U.S. third (USISL) and second divisions (A-League). A two-year stint at San Diego State as the assistant men's soccer coach led to a position at Soccer America Magazine and it was shortly thereafter that his broadcast career began.

Allen believes teaching soccer to children conveys a lifestyle choice and introduces them at a young age to being active and fit. Children immediately notice how healthy soccer players are just by watching them run around on television. Watching soccer on TV also opens up the larger world of soccer - truly a global game - for your children. They're part of something really big! Here are some tips from Allen to make watching soccer on television with your kids fun and successful.

Research Before You Watch

Do your homework before you turn on the TV. Look up the game and/or team on Wikipedia.com for a brief description, and then you can come to the table with a basic sense of what's going on. If you want to go deeper and brush up on the basic rules, lean on AYSO resources but if the kids are really young, don't get too heavy into rules.

Website References For Laws/Rules

US Soccer Download flipbooks and quick references
FIFA Download Laws of the Game

Personalize It

My kids both love the soccer stars. Check out the team roster and have the kids pick a player (perhaps the one who plays the same position they do) and follow them on the field. Throughout the game, ask the kids questions about their player. Another way to personalize it also teaches geography. Buy a map and hang it on the wall. With each game you watch, place a pin in the cities the teams are from. If your child is computer knowledgeable, have them go online and find a few facts about the cities.

Sense Of Ownership

When my son asks what games are on, we pick the games we want to watch that weekend together. Choose a game that has a connection for you and your child. Examples are the U.S. National Team, the MLS team in your city, the MLS team where grandma lives or an international team from a country your child is studying in school. Picking teams to root for based on jersey color can also go a long way with kids. You don't have to over-think it or be the smartest guy in the room; you just have to make it fun. Besides, it's always more fun when you care about one of the teams.

Ask Older Kids More Questions

Older kids are more likely to see something and try to replicate it on the field. When the referee makes a call, talk about it with your child. Do you both understand why the call was made? If not, talk together about what you think may have happened.

Healthy Snacks For Game Time

Cut up fruits and vegetables and add dip. Have chilled bottles of water and big bowls of butter-free popcorn. Have your child help with preparing the snacks and setting them out. You're preparing the "stage" for a fun time together.

Playsoccer Spring 2008

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