CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- A new program in recognition of the growing need for properly trained youth soccer coaches, appropriate training programs, and higher level competition and training for more advanced players, is being launched this spring by the Leisure, Youth and Human Services (LYHS) Division at the University of Northern Iowa.
Samuel Lankford, UNI professor of LYHS in the School of Health, Physical Education & Leisure Services, said "Just for Kicks" (JfK) will provide a venue for UNI faculty and graduate students to conduct research, while serving as a soccer resource/information source for northeast Iowa.
"High school teams and competitive soccer teams can benefit from this program that is housed within the Recreation Research & Service Program in LYHS," said Lankford, adding that the program will hold a 7v7 soccer tournament in the UNI-Dome Saturday, April 19.
Age brackets will be U14 (under 14) and adult. Games will run 45 minutes with indoor goals and certified referees. Lankford said the JfK program has six objectives: to conduct research on the more advanced youth players, including motivation and physiological and injury care and prevention; provide and coordinate coaching education programs for northeast Iowa for high school and competitive coaches; offer strength and conditioning programs for the more advanced soccer player; Also, hold an annual conference at UNI on high school and competitive soccer to provide updated information on best practices in coaching and research on the sport/player; provide leadership development for the player through group dynamics, using outdoor leadership skills; and develop and maintain a Web site as a clearinghouse for information on soccer training, games and officiating to help soccer clubs identify opportunities and coordinate events.
To meet these objectives, Lankford and Christopher Kowalski, UNI assistant professor of LYHS, have formed some unique partnerships for JfK's program. JfK has partnered with the F.C. Midwest Soccer Academy , located in Cedar Falls ; the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA); UNI Price Laboratory School 's Northern University High School ; and, the UNI Outdoor Adventure Program. The Academy trains and coaches youth who are more advanced than the recreational soccer player. Its coaches have the requisite licensing and training for these athletes.
"This academy provides access to athletes that gives our students an excellent opportunity for research and service," said Lankford. "Since the youth players are training and playing year round, it also provides better access for research."
NSCAA trains coaches and provides a venue to share research results from the studies. Its coaching education program results in diplomas for high school, recreational and competitive club coaches. NUHS recently offered two of these diploma courses with the help of the partnership. The UNI Outdoor Adventure program provides experiential leadership development opportunities for the athlete.
Lankford said the organization is also working to establish "community liaisons" to help make contact in neighboring communities and with the Bosnian and Hispanic soccer clubs within the area. Lankford says the JfK program is a good fit for UNI. "We have completed one dissertation on soccer coaching, one thesis is nearly complete on parents and competitiveness in youth soccer and one study and journal article have been developed on the economics of soccer tournaments."
He said other planned studies include: motivation in youth soccer; research on why youth players stop participating in organized soccer; coaching strategies for the advanced athlete; and cultural importance of soccer among ethnic groups within the Cedar Valley .
Lankford said there are some 4,000 to 6,000 youth soccer players within a 70-mile radius of the area and there are a number of volunteer coaches who need training.
For more information, contact Lankford at (319) 273-6840.