This week we are getting a closer look at the Sounders Junior Program’s three regions.


SJP Valley with Jason Bellefeuille

What are the benefits of your area program?

From day one we are striving to build a foundation of skills within the players that will not only give them a head start in their development, but good fundamentals that can be built upon as they get older and become more advanced in their abilities and athleticism.

Why participate at this age in this program?

The hardest part with young players is instilling movement and how to make contact with the ball. The earlier you can develop traits of how to strike and move with the ball, the quicker and easier the other elements of the game will take hold as you progress in more advanced and complex lessons. For instance, learning how to properly receive a ball and set up your next touch makes it easier to then develop the ability to do it without looking and then create a string of passes within a team setting, which is the ultimate goal of course.

What can we expect for soccer development?

At this age, ball skills and decision making are among the key items we work to develop because those are the long-term fundamentals they will build on as they get older. We want to educate these little ones with on-the-ball skills that they can take home and continue to work on over and over in the back yard so that they can exponentially grow their game.

What other development aspects do you focus on?

We want to develop a mindset of determination and teamwork. As a child learning a new skill, it is not always easy right from the start, so learning how to work through it and figure it out is not only important for the moment, but crucial for life moving forward. And, as it is a team sport, learning to work with others on the pitch and in the future while having that determined mindset is critical as well. A fun attitude is also important. At the end of the day – or week – you want the kids to be having fun when they step on the pitch for a game and – even though they should be focused on working – at training. Often times when things are difficult or not going well it is important to realize that it is more than just a task and smile. Sometimes learning that one particular skill or going up against a much better opponent in a one-sided game is rough so we want to create an environment where the kids know it’s about having fun.

Tell us about the location for training

The valley group is based out of Plantes Ferry Sports Complex, one of the longest existing soccer locations in the greater Spokane community. It is a great location for families in eastern Spokane as well as the border with north Idaho.

What does the training environment entail?

Challenges. Unless the player has an older sibling, nearly everything we present to them is something new so we will be constantly introducing new skills as well as revisiting the others to ensure the development of those key technical elements of the game. Our hope is that a fun, friendly environment will help foster a mindset of determination to pick up these abilities, making it easier to layer in further skills as the season progresses as well as lay the foundation for the future.

What are the overall goals of the program?

Preparation and fun. By the time the player’s tenure in the SJP comes to an end, my hope is that the player is prepared to move onto the next phase of the game – most likely with a new coach – and be able to go into that environment with the core technical skills to be ready from day one and be able to tackle any new challenges that arise. And we want them to, of course, be having some fun along the way because we want these young minds to enjoy the game just as much as we as coaches have.


For more about the Sounders Junior Program… visit HERE [+]

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