Play Soccer for Health, Wellness — And Fun


Soccer has been dubbed “the world’s sport” for a reason. A recent survey by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, found it’s a pastime shared by 265 million players around the globe. That’s about four per cent of the world’s population.

This summer many of them will have watched the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup in Russia. And they’ll take to streets, parking lots, empty spaces, backyards and beaches to play the game.

One of the great things about soccer is you don’t need to break the bank to play it. “Soccer is inexpensive if you want it to be. It could be as simple as two kids in a park with a ball, having fun, or better still, playing with their parents,” says John Clubb, the Alberta Soccer Association’s manager of Grassroots Development.

For children under six, it’s about gaining the fundamentals of physical literacy: running and kicking. From seven to nine, it’s about ball mastery: foot dribbling the ball while running and weaving through opponents. Most of all, it’s about fun!

Children focus on developing their own skills and that gives them a chance to explore parts of the game. “So let them be and encourage them to have fun with the ball,” Clubb says. “At 10 to 12 years old, they are old enough to be introduced to team play and passing the ball.”

Whatever your or your children’s age and ability, playing some form of soccer can add to physical, social and emotional health and wellness.

Players can reduce the risk of injury by warming up before playing and by wearing protective equipment, such as shin guards.

Christina Loitz, a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services, says soccer helps brain function, coordination, balance, gross motor skills and stress reduction.

“It can also help children build confidence, social skills, leadership, creativity, and a lifelong enjoyment of being physically active,” she says.