A Comox Valley couple has started a pre-school soccer program for youngsters 18 months to seven years old.
Nicole Bergot-Browning and Matthew Browning, who recently moved to Merville, had already registered 30 players before holding the first session on Sunday, Nov. 21 at Woodcote Park in Courtenay.
The program is called Little Kickers, which they started in Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo in October. Between the three areas, they have nearly 100 children enrolled.
Bergot-Browning said there is a need and a desire among young families for recreation programming.
“I don’t know if that has to do with COVID,” she said. “For so long we went without this kind of programming for our kids. There’s a lot of demand for it. It’s just great to see the kids running around…My husband says the kids learn soccer by accident.”
Nicole and Matthew have two daughters, two and seven. The eldest enjoyed the Little Kickers program in Toronto, from where the family moved to Vancouver Island in August. Matthew works as a transportation engineer during the week, but come Sunday, he is the Little Kickers lead coach.
“He’s from the UK. He loves football. He’s a big Liverpool fan,” said Bergot-Browning, who takes care of the business side of the program. “He’s excited about being able to coach and play soccer with these kids, because this is what he grew up doing.”
The method of teaching is more concerned with themes, imagination and story-telling with a ball than it is about building soccer skills through drills and games.
Bergot-Browning notes that most children, at first, don’t know what to do with a ball — so it’s important for them to feel comfortable with the ball, not to feel pressure in a competitive environment.
“But they are learning skills,” she said. “It’s amazing the difference we’ve seen between the first week and now. The kids that didn’t know how to kick a ball are now dribbling and scoring goals. It happens naturally over time. As long as they’re having fun, they’ll get better at it.”
The program is a franchise of the Little Kickers pre-school soccer academy that started in the UK in 2002. There are now more than 300 franchises in 32 countries.
Nicole and Matthew are running four classes on Sundays, starting at 9 a.m. at Woodcote. Each session is 45 minutes, tailored to a different age group.
“There’s a lot of parent participation,” Bergot-Browning said.
She has hired several coaches who manage the programs south of Courtenay, but could use a few more locally. She pays between $17 and $20 per hour.
For more information about Little Kickers, visit www.littlekickers.ca. Contact Bergot-Browning at (778) 834-6561 or firstname.lastname@example.org