UPDATE: The Valley Sports Center has announced that they will be closing their doors for good on June 21, 2015. Find out more details about the change here.
Thanks to Valley Sports Center for providing us with complimentary access to their Lil’ Kickers class! All opinions are 100% my own.
As a mom of two high energy two year olds, I am always looking for programs where they can run, play and maybe even learn a little something new.
Unfortunately, I haven’t come across a lot of sports programs designed for the 1 and 2 year old crowd. So, when I heard about a soccer program in Canton designed for even the youngest of sports fans, I knew I wanted to check it out.
The Valley Sports Center in Canton has a soccer program called Lil’ Kickers. The program is designed for kids ages 18 months to 9 years old and is held year-round at their indoor facility.
The Center is located right off of Albany Turnpike, but it can be a little tricky to find the first time you visit. I know I passed it the first time we went and I think I would have passed it on our second visit too. Fortunately, though, on this trip my husband was driving and his navigational skills far exceed mine.
For reference, here is what the sign looks like and the entrance is located right next to a Mobil gas station.
Once you locate the facility, just turn in the entrance and there is plenty of parking available out front.
There are a few stairs from the parking lot to the entry for the building, but there is also a ramp in front of the building if you need it.
Once inside, the check-in area is to your left and there is a large waiting area to your right. In the waiting area there are tables and chairs, computers, information on free wifi access, toys for the younger kids, video games for the older kids and an assortment of snacks and beverages (including coffee!) for sale at the counter.
While I’m at it, I might as well show you the bathroom situation. You know that is a staple stop on any OAAM tour 🙂
The bathrooms are located right past the check-in area and are equipped with a baby changing table located in the handicap stall.
The nice thing about the waiting area is that it gives you a bird’s eye view to the classes below. If your child is a little older and participating in one of the independent programs, you can hang out here during class but still get to see them in action. You also have the option of sitting in the gym during class, there are bleachers located near each of the courts.
Alright, enough looking around, let’s head into class.
We were there on a Saturday morning for the 9:00 am Cottontails class with Coach Garrett. The class is for kids ages 2.5 – 3.5 and requires parent participation.
When you enter the waiting area, the first thing to do is to check the board and see where your class is being held.
Then just head down the set of stairs and into the gym.
As a side note, one thing I did notice as we headed into the gym was this sign mentioning that you can’t wear cleats in the gym area. Because the classes are held indoors, regular sneakers are all that are needed. It was a bit chilly the day we went, so my kids wore long pants and t-shirts, but most days shorts, t-shirts and sneakers would work perfectly. Plus, all kids in the program have these cute little jerseys to wear, so half of their outfit is already set!
Here is a picture of the jersey as modeled by one of the friends we made in class. What a cutie!
Oh wait. He wanted me to capture the backside of the jersey as well. I think we may have a future model in our midst 🙂
One of the cool things about the soccer classes here (at least in my opinion) are that each of the courts are bordered by these inflatable barriers. This helps keep the soccer balls (and the kids playing with the soccer balls) in a defined area. Otherwise, I think most of the class would be spent chasing balls and kids!
Before the class started, the kids had a little time to run around and get acquainted with the playing area. But shortly after 9, the class was ready to go.
It started off with the kids going around in a circle, introducing themselves and telling the coaches their favorite color. I guess sort of a toddler-sized ice breaker 🙂
For our class there were two coaches: Coach Garrett and Coach Lindsey. I later learned that the Cottontails level has a 7:1 ratio for kids-to-coaches. As you move up and down the level system, the ratio adjusts accordingly.
Here is a quick rundown of the various levels:
- Bunnies: 18-24 months, parent/child class, 15:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Thumpers: 2-3 years old, parent/child class, 12:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Cottontails: 2.5-3.5 years old, adult interactive class, 7:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Hoppers: 3-4 years old, beginner class, 7:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Jackrabbits: 3-4 years old, intermediate class, 7:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Big Feet: 5-6 years old, beginner class, 12:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Micro Classes: 4-9 years old, intermediate class, 12:1 child-to-coach ratio
- Micro Advanced: 5-8 years old, clinical classes, 8:1 child-to-coach ratio
Get more details on the various classes here.
After introductions, the kids got up on their feet and started practicing a few soccer skills. I know nothing about soccer, so I’m not even going to pretend to know exactly what they were doing, but I will say that my kids had a blast trying it out.
Then they practiced a little ball handling with a fun red light, green light game.
But it wasn’t all straight soccer with this program.
Because the kids are 2-3 years old and probably don’t have the attention span for a formal soccer lesson, the coaches combine fun games with soccer skills to keep the kids engaged. The program is actually referred to as a child development program and not a soccer class and I could see why.
The kids played a game where they had to use their ball handling skills to tag the teacher (who was playing the role of an alien) with the soccer ball. Then kids in the class got a chance to play the alien role and were chased by their classmates until they were tagged by the soccer ball.
There was another fun game where the kids used circles to pretend they were driving a boat. Then when the coaches signaled the kids would stop, throw their circle on the ground and jump on top. This was all in an attempted to keep out of the shark infested waters!
There were several other activities and games that the children played as well. Of course they had to practice their soccer goals, so that was definitely on the list. But they also got a chance to play with the parachute which of course is always a big hit.
Throughout the class there was a chance for the kids to take a quick break and grab a drink. Some brought their own drinks and others purchased drinks from the vending machine in the gym.
Some kids would also take a break here and there on their own. I mean, 50 minutes is a long time to hold a 2/3 year old’s attention, so that is too be expected and wasn’t an issue. The coaches did a really good job getting the little one’s back engaged when they started to drift. They knew all the kids by name and would work to get them excited about the next activity.
After class it was fun to see the kids interacting with their teammates and even the parents socializing with each other. We even ran into one of our friends as we were chatting in the waiting area.
This cute munchkin’s mom, Christina Houser, is an amazing photographer and did the newborn photos for my twins and a one-year-old photo shoot for Boo. She was even sweet enough to send over a few additional pics for me to add to the post. Uggh, her photography skills put mine to shame!
Here is what my pictures should really look like 🙂
All-in-all we had a great morning at the Lil’ Kicker’s program at Valley Sports Center in Canton. My kids had a blast and I had some very tired kids on my hands after the 50 minute class was through (yay!)
If you are interested in trying out the program, the first class is always free. The other nice thing is that the program is open enrollment. Enroll at any time during the season, and the class cost is prorated accordingly. There are two weeks left in the Spring Session and then the Summer Session begins on June 10th. Go take a trial class and then enroll for the Summer!
Valley Sports Center, 310 Albany Turnpike, Canton, CT 06019
Phone Number: (860) 693-2378 (BEST)
Program Contact: Brenna, email@example.com
Follow them on Facebook!
Get directions here:
The Summer 2013 program schedule can be found here.
- The Summer 2013 program is offering a special rate of $160 for 12 classes (typically the price for 10 classes).
- A one-time annual registration fee of $25 is also required.
- The program is open enrollment, so sign up at any time.
- All first time Kickers can register for a FREE trial class.
- FREE jersey for new participants registering for a full season.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- Dress your child comfortably for the class. They are going to be doing a lot of running!
- Your child should wear sneakers, no cleats.
- Have your child bring water to quench their thirst during these active sessions.
- Snacks and drinks are available for sale in the check-in/waiting area. Coffee is also available at $1.50 per cup.
- FREE WiFi access is available in the waiting area. If your child is in an independent class, you can get some work done while your little one plays.
- Valley Sports Center also offers a few other programs for little ones:
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