By Ryan Kaczmarski
REM Tots Soccer Association is the answer to founder and president Meghan Schane-Rambert’s question, “How am I going to use up all of my child’s extra energy?”
Typically, there are very few organized sports options for kids under the age of five. The only team activity for small children in the area was gymnastics until REM came along.
Located in the North Olmsted Soccer Sportsplex on Lorain Road, REM (short for Rick, Ellen and Meghan, the first names of the coaches) is a non-profit program that teaches young children the basic skills needed to begin playing soccer. Originally it was going to be a for-profit organization, but the founders scrapped the idea.
“This year we decided to go for a non-profit status and try to organize this program,” Schane-Rambert said. “It’s really just about the kids and not trying to get sponsors.”
The program started in June of 2009 when Schane-Rambert started talking to Rick Welker, president of the German-American Cultural Center (Concordia) in Olmsted Falls, about starting a youth soccer program. The program started as a “Tiny-Tots” class with the ages ranging from three to five. That first session they had nine total kids sign up. In the second year the registration went up to 24 kids and they added an “Advanced Tots” class with ages ranging from five to seven. Now they have almost 30 kids split up into two Thursday evening and two Friday evening classes. On November 5, they will add a “Parent-Tot” class for the ages of two to three.
They have toyed with teaching the kids outside, but right now all the classes are played on indoor fields.
“You just can’t keep their attention (outside),” Schane-Rambert said. “There are too many flowers, noises, butterflies and other distractions to deal with.”
The three coaches (teachers) all come from different sports backgrounds.
Schane-Rambert played soccer for Olmsted Falls High School, first for the boys team, then as a senior she was on the first girls team in school history. She has played on various teams as an adult for fun.
Welker has a storied soccer background. He played as a youth at Concordia and started a club team in his high school (there was no organized soccer in his school at that time in the late 60’s). He then went on to play semi-pro ball with the Euclid Panthers (now Tigers) Soccer Club and has been coaching since 1972.
“I enjoy working with these kids,” Welker said. “The satisfaction I get working with the little kids, and their appreciation for me, is much more than working with older kids.”
The third coach is Ellen Cassidy. From her own admission, she has no soccer background.
“For me, it’s all about taking these kids that don’t shine on the field and giving them a chance,” Cassidy said. “Every kid gets a goal, whether it’s in the correct goal or not.”
The focus is to keep things fun for the kids and not too technical. They use positive reinforcement for everything the kids do.
“The kids never make a mistake,” Welker said. “If they score on the wrong goal I say, ‘Oops, that’s my fault.’”
“We just go out there and play with the kids for an hour,” Schane-Rambert said. “We try using the principles of soccer to teach other fundamental growth and development skills. We like to build confidence and self-esteem within the children.”
The program caps the class size at 12 children with two coaches present in every session. REM is open to teaching autistic and other special needs children.
“If a child has a special need, we can focus on that need and give them special attention,” Schane-Rambert said.
REM keeps a family atmosphere during the classes, encouraging parents to watch and cheer along with the kids.
As most parents know all too well, young kids have energy to spare. REM helps burn off some of their natural pent up energy while engaging them in athletic games that will help the kids learn, grow and help fight off early childhood obesity.
REM Tots Soccer Association
P.O. Box 38444
Olmsted Falls, Ohio 44138