Oh, and be sure to visit his site Soccer Rockets.
Why did you decide to start Soccer Rockets? How did it all begin?
When our son was 18 months old we took him to a soccer program out on Long island. The program was good, but it got me to start thinking about having my own program in Queens. I have been playing soccer all my life (plus other sports) and I wanted to give back to kids. My wife and I started brainstorming and came up with SoccerRockets and the beginning of a game plan.
How do you decide what is the right activity for a child’s age?
I have been a teacher for 11 years, working for the board of education. I teach handicapped children ages 4-21. I have a lot of experience adapting activities to the needs of different types of children, as well as different ages. I come up with activities that I think will be beneficial and then I adapt them to fit the needs of the children in my program. Because of this, the program has become very successful. We watch the progress and continue moving from there.
What has been the best part of working with children?
The best part of working with children is watching their progress and improvement. A lot of children come into the program with motor skill delays or just not having the experience with sports. Every week you see improvement in their coordination and overall self esteem and confidence. Children come to the program who are shy and don't have the social skills. However, during the course of the program we see them develop these skills and start to interact appropriately with their peers and their confidence levels rise. This in turn helps their motor skills develop.
What do you do when a child tries to do an exercise but just can’t do it? For instance, they keep getting right and left confused.
We start with very simple activities so everyone feels success. If a child is having a problem with a specific skill then we adapt that skill to fit that child’s needs. Sometimes a child has a hard time concentrating or following directions. This is when we as instructors and the parents work together to support the child. Also, the consistency of the program is very important. If the child comes to class consistently every week we see definite progress even if it’s baby steps. We use music during the program that helps the children to stay focused as well.
Childhood obesity is a growing concern. What do you recommend as the best way to prevent it?
Basically the best way to prevent child obesity is to just get children moving. This can be done in so many ways. I suggest parents play with their children a little bit every day. I have a video posted on Youtube that shows a very simple way for parents to work with their kids in any situation. This specific video demonstrates how I worked with a 3 year old in an apartment setting, just kicking a soccer ball back and forth down the hallway. There are so many ways to get children to move, but it is up to us as adults to lead so children will follow.
Check out the video at the end of the interview.
What if a child is already obese?
If a child is already obese then I suggest what I stated above. Get the child off the couch and away from the T.V. The parents have to set the example. There are parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, programs, etc., to help to address this issue. A lot of these resources are free, also.
The Wii video game is supposed to help children be more active. What do you think of it?
I think that the Wii can be a great tool to get children involved with sports and dance. It is also something that can be done as a family. However, I don't think that it should be the only means of play. It should be used in moderation and parents should be in control of what and how much it is being used. It should not be used in place of going outside to play. Children need to be outside for many reasons, and that should be taken into consideration.
Do you teach only soccer at Soccer Rockets?
No, we teach up to 6 different sports now. This upcoming winter session we will be teaching soccer, basketball, wiffleball and volleyball. We started volleyball last session and it was very successful. In the future I would like to do a triathalon for toddlers.
Earlier you mentioned special needs children. What kind of program do you provide for them?
I teach special needs children for the board of education. In addition, SoccerRockets provides programs for special needs children as well. The program is integrated, which means that the special needs children in my SoccerRockets program share classes with typical children. This is beneficial for everyone. Like I mentioned before, any skill or activity can be adapted to fit the needs of any of the children.
Have you written a book? No, but I would like to in the future.
What is the best thing that parents can do for their children?
The best thing that parents can do for their children is to get involved in their activities. Make sure they have a well-rounded range of activities that they do to keep them healthy and motivated. Parents need to be encouraging but not overwhelming. They need to praise their achievements and back them up and provide love and guidance when things aren't easy for them. Parents need to recognize their children for the great beings that they are.
Anything you would like to add?
I would like to add that I love what I do and that makes all the difference in the world. I think that when you are happy with what you are doing you can be successful at anything. My own children as well as my students teach me new things everyday. I take what I learn from them and apply it to my teachings. I hope I can continue to help children become as great as they can be!