As we head into the new soccer season, a recurring theme that I often hear parents lament is the blob of children running around chasing a soccer ball; the Bee Hive. This is most common for four and five year olds, but can continue for a few years until children begin to learn the value of spacing in relationship to other players around them.

If we take a group of children in this age range (4-5 year olds) and introduce them to the “real” game of soccer, that is, a game with only one ball, we’re likely to see the bee hive begin to take form. Alarms should sound, signaling that these young athletes are too young for a “one-ball” game, but rarely does that change anything. Here’s the problem, most parent coaches of these young stars have not received enough preparation to help them fully understand more age appropriate activities. Further, most parents also believe that this is a perfectly acceptable process for children to go through. It’s not.

Upon closer examination, you will see the biggest and fastest kids kicking the ball. Most of the other children are simply chasing the pack with the hope of a lucky strike at some point. Before too long, the children who were on the periphery start to walk and then leave the field in search of a drink or some other excuse that allows them to forego the “real” game. They are not having as much fun as we would like ourselves to believe. After seven or eight weeks of chasing the ball with relatively few touches, don’t be surprised if your child asks to try a different sport next season. There are alternatives to bee hive soccer, and there are activities that actually will facilitate a higher degree of development and fun. We need to seek out programs that offer age appropriate activities that will keep kids coming back. At these beginning ages, let’s do all we can to insure that every child has a ball at his or her feet as much as possible.

- Steve Locker