By Ryan Kaczmarski
It looked like a normal soccer class for three through five year olds, with one ball rolling and everyone else chasing, but this class was a little more than that.
“My personal philosophy, when it comes to teaching little ones, is first and foremost character, sportsmanship and strength,” Instructor Sandy Sill said. “We talk to the parents and players about is strength being the ability to do what is right, even when no one is looking; having the character to have the integrity to follow rules and listen; and learning sportsmanship – always being a good sport and playing fair and being honest, and doing what’s right both on and off the field.
“Those are the keys to every program I teach, as well as most of the programs through the Rocky River Recreation Department.”
The Rocky River Recreation Department holds the Mini Strikers soccer program on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the spring.
“The program is open to Rocky River resident registration first, and when that registration deadline ends, we are open to non-residents,” Sill explained. “We do often end up with waiting lists, and if we have enough people on the wait-list, we will open up another class for those kids.”
Sill is continuing the development of the Rocky River Soccer Organization, which she started with the legendary John Honeyman.
“We started this program over 20 years ago,” she said. “He has now since passed away, but (the program) is still going strong. John was a wonderful mentor to me. I learned so much from him.
“My father also was a soccer player from Scotland, and I also learned a lot from him.”
As the kids were through with running, passing and dribbling games, they needed to ask for water from their parents in a courteous way, and then say “Thank you.”
“I have an education background, so it is important for me that the kids not only learn the sport, but learn the life skills as well,” she explained.
Many of the players on the current Rocky River High School boys and girls soccer teams started out in Sill’s program.
“Ninety percent, or better, of the players in the high school soccer programs have come from my program,” she said. “I also do a lot of basketball, t-ball and ‘all that,’ and those kids grow up and start playing in the advanced leagues as well.
“That’s real satisfying for me, and it’s fun to watch them as they grow older.”
For more information on all Rocky River Recreation Department youth sports programs, go to www.rrcity.com and click on the parks and recreation tab.