Any activity that helps kids to develop their social skills, their physical abilities, and develop friendships while learning teamwork is a great activity, and soccer for youth provides all of these benefits and then some. For developing physical literacy, the best activities include some mixture of jumping, throwing, running, hopping, skipping, kicking, and catching while teaching the “ABCs of Movement,” which are made up of agility, balance, coordination, and speed. Soccer is at the top of the list because it includes all of these movements.
Developing the ABCs of Movement also means developing the central nervous system of the body early in childhood. The quick changes of direction which are so typical of soccer practice and games help to develop a child’s ability to adapt quickly and develop a diversity of movement.
Running is hugely beneficial to young kids, especially those who haven’t yet reached puberty, and soccer provides the best type of running for youth: short distance sprinting and short intervals of recovery. This practice can help instill in kids a desire to be active for life while training their bodies for endurance and a love of physical exertion.
Since soccer players are expected to work together as a team, young people who participate in soccer games together learn to develop their communication skills. They also work on learning the importance and value of working together, which are essential skills in many areas of life both inside and outside of sports.
Soccer can do a lot to help promote a healthy self-image in young people. They learn to see the team as a cohesive unit of which they are an important member. Without the pressure of having to perform as an individual (such as when a player at bat in baseball is expected to hit the ball with the whole team counting on their performance as an individual), soccer players learn to use their abilities to contribute to the success of the team, which can be a source of pride and accomplishment.
The competitive nature of soccer can actually be really beneficial for kids as well. The attempt to win a game can give kids something to strive for in a healthy and sportsmanlike way. Through using the skills that they are learning as a developing athlete and a member of a team, the effort to score and win a game can be a great motivator to work hard and practice well.