Youth Soccer News: San Diego Surf SC Announces Surf Junior Academy Recreation League
For several years, San Diego Surf Soccer Club has welcomed young soccer players into the club’s successful Grassroots Program. That program has introduced many young boys and girls to the world’s most popular game through Surf’s high-quality system. Now the club is introducing the new Surf SC Junior Academy Recreation League, under the direction of former Grassroots Program Director Mario Mrakovic.
The new youth soccer program starts the Spring session this month and players can sign up now.
According to Wayne Harrison, San Diego Surf Soccer Club’s Director of Coaching Boys, “Mario Mrakovic is an outstanding youth coach and is excellent at developing even the youngest players. His training sets players on the proper path for success in the future.”
“Not only does Mario teach technique, he starts the process of skill development. This is what we refer to as the When, Where, How and Why of basic soccer technique, and this training really is vital. This beginning level player development is often the difference between the good player and the great player,” said Harrison. “We try to start this process as early as possible in the child’s development.”
SoccerToday Editor Diane Scavuzzo spoke with super coach Mario Mrakovic about the new program and how young is too young for organized youth soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is San Diego Surf Soccer Club launching a new recreational league?
Mario Mrakovic: A club of the highest standards should have a recreation league. It has been long overdue. Many other clubs have recreational leagues and they are a great way to make sure even the youngest players receive the proper training and an introduction to the joys of soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo: What will the new program be called?
Mario Mrakovic: It will be the Surf Junior Academy Recreation League
Diane Scavuzzo: How old are the players?
Mario Mrakovic: It will be for boys and girls age 3 to 7 of all skill levels. Everyone is welcome to join the fun! No experience necessary!
Diane Scavuzzo: Why is this a great way to start soccer training? Is a three year old too young?
Mario Mrakovic: The sooner kids get exposed to learning, the better. The earlier they are given quality instruction and taught how to do things precisely and properly, the earlier they will become much better coordinated. They will understand the game better, and later on it will reduce the risk of injuries. Age three is a great time to start having fun with the soccer ball.
Diane Scavuzzo: Will it be a natural progression from the rec program to the well-known competitive program?
Mario Mrakovic: Absolutely! The training curriculum is written for Surf training for all age groups and all age categories. There is no improvisation or guessing about what we do.
Diane Scavuzzo: Will it be different from other recreational programs in the area?
Mario Mrakovic: I call our program a “recreation program run professionally.” I would not be excited to run a recreation league, or any other program for that matter, if it was like everybody else’s. I don’t want us just to offer something that is offered already.
During the planning for the Surf Junior Academy Recreation League, I observed many leagues and many programs and took notes of what works and what doesn’t. I have more than done my homework.
I have a clear vision how to do not one thing the best way, but everything the best possible way. I want us to run by far the best recreation league in the country, not just in San Diego or Southern California.
I want others to learn from our progressive ideas and want to help US Youth Soccer adopt some of it. I want everyone to know that if you want the best soccer program for your youngest ones, Surf SC is the place to go as early as age 3.
I am not a fan of boring routines. I believe in new ideas, the evolution of development and change. Change is good, and the change in how our youngest players discover soccer is greatly needed.
We need to help educate volunteer coaches and make adjustments about how we run youth soccer sessions and games with the little kids. There has to be a reason why so many kids drop out of soccer at later stages. Not being properly developed at the youngest ages is definitely one reason.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is Surf SC still continuing the Grassroots Program?
Mario Mrakovic: Grassroots has been replaced by Surf Junior Academy Recreation League. We will offer one training session during the week and games on the weekends.
Diane Scavuzzo: What type of training will you offer?
Mario Mrakovic: The best type, of course!
The type that teaches technique and soccer awareness through touches on the ball.
It will be the type that instills passion for the sport, produces great athletes, teaches fair-play and playing a game with no fouls, and develops respect to everyone, including referees!
I will be personally responsible for the program and will mentor all our assistant coaches that work with our kids, to offer the same exact Surf SC style of play at all times. For instance, we don’t want the kids to play kick-ball because they learn nothing from this! If a player happens to kick the ball hard instead of trying to pass the ball, we will stop the play and re-do it to show the young player how to play properly. No kick ball allowed. Sorry.
Also, we offer the training and games on beautifully flat, green grass fields. No ground bumps, slopes, or holes on our fields. Having the best training facility allows us to expect a high quality of play at all times.
Diane Scavuzzo: Will you be really emphasizing fun as you develop their soccer skills?
Mario Mrakovic: Every time we practice or play, fun is the ever-present component. I always feel like a kid at heart, and the kids recognize that. It is easier to coach when you feel you are at their level. Being a serious soccer coach doesn’t apply here. I love “working” with little kids and they respond extremely well.
It is always a very controlled environment. We have a family atmosphere and tell jokes and goof around all the time, but the quality of training, playing and discipline dictate that kids learn and improve a ton. The fun comes from becoming better. If one stagnates in development, how can he or she have fun? Do kids have fun in school if a teacher is always serious, lacks knowledge on the subject, or does not develop a healthy relationship with them?
Kids are smart. They respond to the environment accordingly. They want to be challenged, they want to be taught, they want to learn and feel good about themselves. And parents like to see that too. This is why I feel certain that we will have great success with our new program.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your philosophy on coaching little kids?
Mario Mrakovic: Do your best, play smart, play together and have fun! As a coach, you have to adjust to kids. You cannot just be yourself. You have to adapt. Or you should find a different job opportunity.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is three or four years old too young to start?
Mario Mrakovic: If you were to ask this question to anyone in San Diego of Mexican heritage, they would all say to you that starting to play soccer at age four is way too late.
As long as the kids can pay attention and follow the instruction, they are ready. It is never too early to learn, have healthy exercise, play games with peers and have fun. Soccer is the best sport in the world, and the sooner you are exposed to its beauty the better. What other sport or physical activity is better to do for motor skills, coordination, balance while having fun at age 4? There is none.