On the ball… Gauteng’s newest and most wonderful soccer coaching for kids

March 6, 2020

Imagine a beautiful park in Gauteng, happy kids exercising, content parents looking on, and a dynamic coach encouraging the kids to kick, dribble, run, catch and more.

This is Soccerhood, a “soccer circle” in a park or open space, which offers 40 minutes of fun and healthy exercise for 3 to 8-year-old kids.

A few weeks ago, I took my toddler Rebecca to her first circle in Melrose, and though a little shy at first (apparently most kids will feel this way at their first session), got involved at some points – hats off to one incredible coach for getting all the kids motivated and playing.

Soccerhood was started by Barbara Mallinson, a mom of two who wanted something awesome for her soccer-mad daughter, and who wanted to create jobs for all the coaches out there.

I asked Barbara more about Soccerhood:

Tell us about yourself…

I’m a Joburg mom – born and bred. My day job is being CEO of Obami (a digital learning solutions company), but I tend to get myself involved in many other exciting ventures, especially those that have the potential to make a big social impact – like Soccerhood.

Why did you start Soccerhood?

My 4-year-old daughter is soccer mad and when we wanted to get a private coach (for hers and some friends), we were inundated with applications. It was overwhelming – it really highlighted how many young people are desperate for jobs.

So my husband and I felt compelled to do our bit and – by leveraging the technology that my company has built – we were able to solve two problems at once.

How many parks are you currently in?

Soccerhood is currently operating in 10 parks across Jozi (full list here:https://www.obami.com/soccerhood/portals).

How does one join/sign up? Does a child need to have any soccer practice/experience?

Parents can visit www.soccerhood.com to find and join their closest soccer circle – the online booking process is super quick, and unlike other soccer clubs, there aren’t any registration fees.

In terms of a child’s prior experience, this is by no means a requirement. While Soccerhood can help improve serious soccer skills (which is usually what the slightly older kids are after), our games are primarily designed around the idea of having fun with a focus on ECD skills development to help build confidence and develop a passion for healthy exercise. Some games don’t even use a soccer ball!

Do you encourage girls to take part too?

Soccerhood is definitely not just for the boys! While soccer is traditionally seen as a masculine sport, there’s just so much that both boys and girls can learn from joining one of our circles – we have a number of women coaches who’ll attest to this!

At the end of the day, Soccerhood is creating a trusted space for kids (of both genders) to have fun, build confidence and develop a passion for healthy exercise.

Barbara’s daughter Edie loves joining the soccer circles

Are the coaches experienced/registered?

All our coaches are screened and specially selected before going through our online development programme to earn their coaching license. This covers a number of critical aspects associated with the setting up and running of a soccer circle – from the soccer itself and the games we’ve designed, to things like marketing and sales, customer relationship management, and even first aid.

So, while a number of our coaches have official coaching certifications from international bodies, and some have even coached actual soccer teams, this is not a requirement of ours. Instead, we look for coaches who have a good mix of coaching skills and have worked with or taught kids… for us, it’s more important that our coaches are able to connect to and engage with young kids. 

Will you try get into schools too?

It’s a natural progression for sure and will no doubt form part of our offering in future. For the time being, we’re looking to build on what other soccer clubs don’t… like being able to attend a Soccerhood circle as a play-date, for example. Essentially we offer a seriously affordable and socially responsible experience to build community by getting kids (and their parents) into our local parks.

How do you feel when you see kids having fun at Soccerhood? And what do you want kids to get out of it?

I just can’t believe that it’s all happening… that this idea has actually grown into something pretty awesome and is making a real difference in peoples’ lives – it makes my heart want to burst! And it doesn’t seem that it’s just at Soccerhood that kids are having fun – a few moms have reported back saying how their kids keep asking them to play soccer circles with them in the garden, or that the Soccerhood circle song is stuck in their head (sorry about that one!)… it’s incredibly rewarding to know that the kids are enjoying themselves, and because of that, we can carry on providing job opportunities to the youth.

In terms of what I want the kids to get out of it?… perhaps one day South Africa will have its own “Messi” who started at Soccerhood, but for now, getting kids out into our local parks and open spaces, getting them connected to one another and having some healthy (and purposefully designed) exercise is more than enough.

What is the aim for the next few months?

Soccerhood is pretty new – we only launched 10 weeks ago! – so we’re still busy creating awareness and building our brand. Slowly but surely our numbers are rising – it’s really exciting to see the growth.

While we feel like this has validated our local park service, we’re also responding to the demand we’ve received for home circle offerings (hosted privately in a garden) and birthday parties. So the next few months will be all about growing these services too and then looking to take Soccerhood to other towns and cities, where we’ve received requests to get it going.

What is your party offering, and how much does it cost?

Our Soccerhood party service is offered at various levels, with something to suit every pocket… as a basic, we provide a coach for every 8 kids. Our licensed coaches arrive with a full coaching kit (includes balls, cones, games, whistle, first aid kit, etc) and facilitate 40 minutes of game play followed by 20 minutes of match play.

We have 24 specially designed and super exciting games (that take place around a 10x10m circle of cones) to keep the kids entertained. On top of this, we also offer soccer themed party stationery and décor, a soccerball cake, an arty-crafty soccer activity and/or soccer themed party packs to send home with each guest. Prices start from R55 per child.

For more info and for updates and news, head to the Soccerhood Facebook page.

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