Do you have a budding Ronaldo in your midst? Perhaps you’d like the opportunity to have some fun with your pre-schooler in a relaxed friendly setting or maybe provide an older child with a structured yet fun opportunity to develop football skills?
Meet Debbie and Ian Lowndes who runs Walsall’s own Socatots,. with Debbie’s previous Nursery schools background and Ian’s lifelong interest in football, it seemed an ideal opportunity to make use of their combined skills and talents, for the benefit of the Walsall community.
Debbie is responsible for Socatots, a pre-school programme using football as learning medium.
‘Once babies are able to sit unaided and crawl they are able to take part,’ explains Debbie. ‘Parents stay and actively participate in the sessions so it’s a great atmosphere, and it’s one of the few available pre-school activities where dads feel welcome!’
Carefully structured 45 minute sessions ensure that children are constantly occupied. They incorporate rhymes and action songs, as well as good quality pre-school equipment such as domes, special sized 1 footballs, hoops, skittles, bean bags and a parachute.
‘The focus is very much on development of pre-school skills,’ explains Debbie. ‘As well as developing co-ordination, balance and concentration, children are learning colours, numbers, shape, letter recognition and even phonics. As a result, children who have participated in the Socatots programme tend to fly once they’re at school.’
This statement is a nationally recognised fact, and Carnegie De Montford University are currently undertaking a study to find out exactly why this is the case.
‘We are very aware of the Foundation Stage Curriculum and the Every Child Matters legislation, and what we offer fits in perfectly,’ says Debbie.
‘We don’t just throw them a football and expect them to play a match!’ she adds.
The children are grouped according to age and ability, with around 8 children in each session which gives plenty of time for one on one as well as group instruction. They have the opportunity to learn basic football skills, such dribbling, step-overs and ‘keepy-uppys’. They are taught to use both feet and how to use all six areas of the foot to control a ball. The effects of exercise are discussed and well as basic hygiene and safety.
‘It gets children into the habit of exercise very early on,’ explains Debbie,’ as one of the things that I was very aware of when I worked in Nurseries is that the children simply weren’t getting enough physical opportunities. This is a programme that suits all abilities, including special needs and both girls and boys are welcome. In fact, it very much suits girls as it’s a skills-based training rather than them immediately battling out in the middle of a match where the biggest and strongest invariably takes control of the ball. ’We are currently teaching children of ex-professional footballers who recognise just how good the programme is.’ So contact Socatots for more information