By Hanna Rahman –
As soon as Uthman made a goal, all of the kids rushed to tackle their coach in excitement.
It was a typical scene of fun and friendship from the children’s soccer program established in January by the Islamic Community Center in Tempe. The teams played every Sunday at the northern soccer field at Kiwanis Park.
The soccer program included one girls team and one boys team. More than 50 children were registered. The games were like any other sporting event – filled with sweat, hard work, minor injuries and lots of running. The benefits of programs like this one are often greater than simple exercise.
Studies show that sports are important for encouraging a healthy lifestyle, building a community and teaching important life lessons not learned in school. According to the Kids Play USA Foundation, 86% of kids involved in sports were more disciplined and 69% said that sports helped build leadership skills.
Coach Sofiane Laimeche said he is dedicated not only to teaching the kids how to play the sport, but teaching them how to play together.
“It’s important for the kids to learn to play together. I enjoy teaching the kids. It’s always all about the kids because they are important,” said Coach Sofiane.
While research may show that playing sports can improve a child’s future, the kids were more focused on enjoying the present.
Abdul Rahman came to games ready to play. “I like the challenge; you want to use your hands, but have to remember to use your feet. It’s a lot of fun,” said Abdul Rahman.
Others found more value in the friendship that programs like this one create. “I don’t really like soccer all that much, but I like coming because I get to make new friends,” said Reem.
The program seemed to be a hit with kids and parents alike.
Parents also benefited from their children’s sporting events. Many expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to communicate and build friendships with other parents.
“I enjoy watching my kids play and have fun. It also gives us a chance to get away from the kids for a little bit,” said soccer dad Ibrahim Mohamed, with a laugh.
Soccer mom Hiba Ayoub valued the opportunity to spend a day outdoors and the connection it brought between her and her kids.
“It provides us a chance to get out, enjoy the weather and encourage our children. I see how much my kids like to play and I think that’s important,” said Ayoub.
The final game for the soccer camp was held at 3:30 p.m. March 22 at Kiwanis Park. The Islamic Community Center in Tempe plans to hold similar programs for children in the future.