“We’ve shown a lot of progress in how we’ve built the foundation for the kids’ skill work,” Moreland said. “And now that they have that foundation built and have gotten that down, we can work a little more on tactics and other stuff. So instead of having them start at 10 and not being able to work on different things because we just have to focus on the fundamental skills, they already have those things under their belt.”
The accomplishments of the 10-week program, which runs from April to June for boys and girls between 5-10 years of age, have had a ripple effect in the game of soccer throughout the community.
“It’s actually grown soccer within our community pretty well,” Long said. “We started three years ago with the idea of developing some techniques so that by the time these kids got into competitive soccer they’d be more advanced and that’s starting to show.”
Evidence to that progress is the success of the first group of kids that took part in the Advantage Program in 2011. Now members of the Spanish Spring Soccer Club competitive 10U team, the benefits of the Advantage Program are coming to the surface.
“Those guys that were in that group are doing really well,” Moreland said. “Right now we’re 3-0 in league. They’ve shown a lot of progress.”
“We’re just trying to get them comfortable with having the ball at their feet. Once they are comfortable with the ball at their feet and they can look up while dribbling, we can begin to work on a lot of other things and start learning to pass. So our older kids are starting to learn to pass a little earlier now because they have that foundation set up. It’s huge for their educational process of the game that they’re already getting the foundation down.”
Long echoed the same sentiments for the rest of the Advantage Program.
“Instead of just rushing them through, we’re really focused on fundamentals and techniques,” he said. “We’re teaching the kids the game of soccer. For the kids that are in the program, their skills are very advanced compared to kids that aren’t. You can definitely see a difference.”
“The feedback has been extremely positive. All the parents have been really positive about the program and what they’re learning, as well as what their kids have learned. So the feedback has just been great.”
This spring the Advantage Program is teaching those same skills to 76 children. However, instead of just displaying those skills in practice two times a week, some are getting a chance to put what they’ve learned on the pitch into a game.
“The biggest improvement this year is that at the beginning of the program we asked the Great Basin Youth Soccer League in Reno if we could play in the recreational league that they have and they told us no because we were a club. This spring though they’ve allowed our 8-9 year olds to join the rec. league, so now those guys have games every Saturday,” Moreland said. “Before we had no games. And next fall, all of our kids have games in the rec. league. It will be a neat thing for them.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody. The kids get the coaching they need, the coaches get the experience they need and the parents get the education they need. Most importantly, the kids are having fun out there. That’s rule No. 1. I walk out there and ask the kids if they’re having fun and they say yeah, and that’s all I need to hear. They’re having fun and they’re kicking the ball around, and that’s what you need to progress.”