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Over 100 soccer, baseball, basketball and swimming leagues, churches and schools are regular customers of ours and buy motivational patches from us in quantities of 1,000 to 15,000. Sometimes I call to thank them for being our customer and to see how they are using the patches. Recently I had a very interesting conversation with the coaching director of a Rec soccer league in the Midwest that had just bought 2,000 patches. He is a great guy who has played soccer and coached Rec and travel soccer for years. He found SoccerHelp and Coach Doug when his child was ready to play U4 and he was looking for ideas. Below is what I learned from our conversation. I have talked to other leagues that had similar experiences, including a very rapidly growing league in CA: 1. His soccer league started buying our patches last year and he says they have been a big hit. 2. They have found it beneficial to focus on building a strong U4 and U6 program because it is easier to get kids and parents involved at those ages. (I have talked to other fast growing leagues that use this same approach). The fastest growing part of youth soccer is ages 3, 4, 5 and 6 (U3, U4, U5 and U6). In my neighborhood, the YMCA has the big soccer program and 2 years ago they had 140 U4 players (that's right 140 kids signed up for U4 .... U3, U5 and U6 were separate programs). They had to cut off registration at 140. 3. The number of kids signed up for U4 and U6 doubled in a year. He thinks the patches and using Coach Doug's Practice Games had a lot to do with it because they make it more fun. He requires U4 and U6 coaches to watch Coach Doug's DVD. 4. They have found that if kids are having fun playing soccer they are more likely to continue at U12 and U14, so the drop out rate is lower. As we all know, Rec soccer drop-outs start at U10 and the drop out rate is typically high at U12 and so bad by U14 that some leagues don't have enough players for a U14 soccer program. The patches will make it much more fun, which will lead to better practice and game attendance, which will lead to better play. Because it is more fun, 2 things happen - more kids will sign up and your league will grow, and player retention will be better. By U10 or U12, kids start having more opportunities, more home work, more school activities, etc. and they are busy. They will keep doing the things that are fun and drop the things that aren't fun. 5. They found it easier to get parents involved in coaching at U4 and U6 because most of the parents come to the practices and games at U4 and U6 instead of dropping the kids off. They make an effort to get the parents involved in the Practice Games which makes it easier to recruit them to be assistant coaches and then coaches. If you have watched any of Coach Doug's Practice Games, you know he does that. Watch the Coach Doug Video Clips for U4 and U6 Soccer Coaches ( http://www.soccerhelp.com/Soccer_Video_Clips_Coach_Doug_DVD.shtml ). If you want some more ideas for increasing your sign-ups for U4 and U6 soccer, read Soccer Fun for Ages 3, 4, 5 and 6 ( http://www.soccerhelp.com/soccer-articles/100701-u4-soccer-u6.shtml ). Coach Doug used this approach in a small town in FL and 150 kids signed up. There were no lined fields, no refs, no scheduling of games, no "coaches (they used "Fun Leaders" instead) and no uniforms - only a ball for each player and a T-Shirt. Each age group met once a week for 45 minutes to play Practice Games and have soccer fun. A Great Success Story from a U6 Soccer Coach: I thought someone might enjoy this letter I received from a U6 soccer coach: "I have to give credit to Coach Doug's DVD. It keeps the practices fun and entertaining, and we've only played about 6 or 7 of the Practice Games so far, so there are a lot more we can play. The main thing I have taught so far is "puppy on a leash" and monster kicks with correct form. We lost the first game and I think the problem was that I hadn't ordered goals for us to use at practice. The goals came in for the week of practice for the second game so they kids had something to shoot at. Our second game was incredible. I wish you could have seen those little kids play. I haven't had one kid reach down and grab the ball with their hands where both teams we've played have had it happen to them. We also haven't had one kid score on our own goal. They know to turn the ball around and go in the right direction. So well, in fact, that I have only played the turn around game 1 time because they already know to do it. At first I thought the patches were just a gimmick, but after using them for a week and a half I can definitely see how and why they are important. The patches have gotten 1 kid to never use his hands (he used them all the time the first practice), gotten one kid to keep playing after he got hit in the stomach, and gotten one kid to play even though he didn't want to because he was too cold, and another to practice when he was scared to play. That last kid held the patch in his hand the entire practice. Now my son asks for patches for doing stuff around the house. ("Dad, I just picked up my toys, can I get a badge?") They are awesome. My son had to sit out this past game because he was sick and when I got home he asked me if everyone got a patch. He was disappointed that he wasn't able to get one for this game. Man, I could type about this for hours but in short: everything you recommend is great. I wish I could sing your praises from the mountaintops so that more people would buy your stuff. I'm 30 and I haven't played soccer since I was 12 and this is my first time to coach, but I feel like a master coach with these kids. The parents believe in me and you can see it in their faces. If we keep improving at this rate then next year we may have to move up a level. I'll send you a pic of our team when I can. Some of our smallest, youngest kids are our best players. Take care!" Tommy, U6 coach, TX
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