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11 Activities Perfect for the Off-Season

Soccer Tennis
Find a tennis court, and take turns kicking the ball back and forth over the net. Can't find a tennis court? You can create a "net" by securing a rope across two points or by using a line on the ground that the ball has to bounce across. Maybe draw the line with some street chalk, then you're adding a drawing/art element to the activity.

Soccer Golf
For this game, you use your soccer ball as the "golf ball," your leg as the "golf club" and a cone as the "hole." The object of the game is to see how many times it takes your child to kick the soccer ball from a certain starting point, and hit the cone/target. The fewer kicks it takes, the better. Find an open area outside. Set your cone down as far or as close as you like, depending on how far your child is able to kick the ball. If you don't have a cone, distinguish your own target that you're aiming to hit, for example, a tree.

Soccer Bowling
Line up any freestanding objects, like empty plastic water bottles, that can be knocked over (without breaking) the same way bowling pins are knocked over. Place your pins in the traditional bowling formation or get creative with the design, then your child gets two attempts to knock as many pins down as he can. Tally the score after 10 rounds!

Wall Ball
Take turns with your child kicking the soccer ball against a wall, or even find a handball court at a park. OR, if your child is constantly anxious to kick the ball around, but has no one around to pass with, this is a great way for them to pass with themselves!

Kick and Catch
Play kick and catch with your child. Kick it so he can catch it (start with a very light kick). Then he drops it and kicks it back.

Bouncy Pass Back
Pass the ball back and forth with your child while keeping it bouncing. Count how many passes you can hit before it stops bouncing or you lose control, turning it into a contest.

The Newspaper Ball
Combine art and soccer. The first page of the newspaper needs to be crumpled up and squeezed tightly, because that's the core. Wrap three more sheets around the core and tape a big cross around the orb. Athletic tape is best. Add three more sheets of newspaper. Then wrap tape around it until you can't see any of the newspaper. Give the kids colored markers to decorate the ball. Kids love making their own custom-made ball, which they can kick around inside and outside.

Mini-Goals
Nothing's as exciting as shooting a ball into the net, so set up some small goals in the backyard.

Organize "Unorganized" Play
Find a field on a Sunday morning, set-up a couple of goals and gather children of all ages. You're setting up the pickup game that kids of yesterday created on their own. Don't coach! If adults play along, do so as teammates, not as instructors.

Go to Pofessional/College Soccer Games
Having role models is priceless. It gives your child a level to aspire to, teaches them how to play, and again surrounds them with other fans of the sport that encourages their own enthusiasm. Plus, they can interact with the players after the game, get autographs and wear the team's jersey/t-shirt, creating a magical experience. Plus, you get to bond with your child!

Create a Soccer Culture
Make soccer available to your family. Always have a soccer ball around, in the car or in the house. Have soccer on TV, even if your child watches for only a few minutes. For girls, we even have the new Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) games to watch now! Research the star players and show your children their highlight clips online. You don't want to force soccer on your kids, but when you create opportunities for them to participate or to learn, their interest and participation will most likely increase.

Contributed by Mike Woitalla and Jill Oakes

Mike Woitalla is the Executive Editor of Soccer America Magazine. He was an AYSO player in Hawaii and now coaches his daughter, Julia.

Jill Oakes is a midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars of the Women's Professional Soccer league. She's also played for the U.S. Women's National team. She started her soccer career at the age of 8 in AYSO. Visit her at jilloakes.com.

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