OSSINING, N.Y. For soccer coach Chris Bonawandt, teaching young kids to play soccer is all about letting them have fun while spending as much time as they can with the ball.
"As with anything reading, numbers the earlier they start, the better it is for development," Bonawandt said. "The more time they spend with the ball, the better."
Bonawandt was one of three soccer camp coaches in Cedar Lane Park in Ossining on Tuesday. The week-long camp, organized by the American Youth Soccer Organization in conjunction with Red Bull New York, teaches kids ages 4 through 10 basic ball skills including dribbling, passing and shooting.
"I like when you get to kick the ball into the goal," said William Peacock, 6.
His camp mate Oliver Stahlie, 6, agreed.
"You can do slides when you kick the ball into the goal and go into the ground," he said.
The trick to keeping kids engaged during soccer training is to play fun games, Bonawandt said.
On Tuesday, Bonawandt's 4, 5, and 6-year old groups of 15 boys played "soccer bowling" and "road kill" to help improve their passing skills.
With soccer bowling, teams of two try to kick their ball to hit a ball in the middle. If their ball touches the middle ball, they get five points.
With road kill, kids run with their balls inside a marked square. They try to kick their ball to hit another kid from the knee down. If they get hit, they become road kill and must lie down outside the square. The last person to remain in the square is the winner.
"Use the inside of your foot and we get points don't we?" Bonawandt said as a boy's ball hit the middle ball in soccer bowling. "Use the toe, and you don't know where it goes."
The road kill game teaches players to kick towards a moving target, while the soccer bowling game is more stationary, Bonawandt explained while his boys took a break for drinks. Both games improve passing skills.
"Passing is really important," the coach said. When kids get into a game they love to keep the ball and they don't even consider the other kids. We try to reinforce for them to use their teammates."
The five-day Red Bull/AYSO soccer camp is being held this week from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for younger kids, while older kids have an option of staying from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kids come from Ossining and the surrounding areas, Bonawandt said.
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