One League's Strategy To Keep Youth Sports Fun: Let Kids Play In Costumes

Apr 23 2014, 4:59pm CDT | by

The Arkansas United Soccer Club has come upon, I think, what is a great idea for any youth sports organization preaching that it wants kids to have fun: putting on games in which its players dress in costume, rather than the official uniform.

The Little Rock-based organization calls its events Superclassicos, a nod with an extra “s” to the Superclasico games played between bitter rivals. Except that Arkansas United’s Superclassicos, played twice a year, are meant to take the edge off the season for kids and parents, rather than heighten tensions. What’s more fun than playing a game while your hair is sprayed green, or you’re dressed like a princess or dragon — and your parents are smiling and taking pictures instead of yelling instructions?

I don’t know how many leagues do this, but I know there aren’t enough. There’s nothing wrong with actually teaching kids a game, but an early age one goal is to have fun with it, and doing something out of the ordinary, if nothing else, might delay their appointment on a therapist’s couch because of their youth sports experience. (My 8-year-old daughter’s wonderful softball coach says he reads this blog so: hint, hint.)

“Some coaches, some parents will take kids’ game too seriously at times,” said Matt Dishongh, an Arkansas United coach. “When you have kids showing up in costumes, it’s hard to keep that mentality.”

Dishongh, 45, a publications editor for a hospital system, came up with the idea for the Superclassico the first year he coached his oldest son in soccer. Dishongh, a late convert to the game when a friend from Nepal coaxed him into an intramural league as a University of Arkansas student, said he had always tried to make soccer as fun as possible for the kids. To that end, for the last game of the fall 2011 season, around Halloween, Dishongh approached the opposing coach with the idea of “wanting to do something crazy.” The coaches decided to hand out vuvuzelas to the parents, play some music during the game — and have everyone, including coaches, dress up in costume. (Dishongh went as DJ Lance from the kids’ TV series “Yo Gabba Gabba.”)

“You’ve got one kid as Hulk Hogan, one kid dressed as a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder,” Dishongh said. “The kids had smiles on their faces. Parents were taking pictures and laughing.” Dishongh suggested to Arkansas United that it extend the Halloween games to all leagues with players younger than 8, and it agreed.

About 600 boys and girls players in leagues featuring players younger than 8 years old have shown up in costume for Arkansas United games each of the last two Halloweens, while a St. Patrick’s Day Superclassico was added for 2014 — “come in all green, plus the attitude and hair of Green Day,” Dishongh said.

Though his son is 9 and has aged out of Superclassicos, Dishongh’s 5-year-old daughter, whom he coaches, is an eager participant, dressing up as a dragon for the Halloween event. Dishongh runs his own unofficial Superclassicos, as well, such as a game coming up April 26 in which the two sides will be dressed in tropical shorts, sunglasses and anything else that signals the upcoming summer.

Dishongh said he doesn’t have any numbers to show whether any more kids are joining soccer, or sticking with it, because they get to dress up in costume a couple of times a year on the pitch. Very few kids will end up playing professionally. But many will remember their experience fondly if coaches take a little time to do something unusual and recognize that these are kids just discovering sports, not launching their first step to a future multi-milliondollar deal.

“‘Are you here to play soccer, or are you hear to goof off?’” Dishongh remembers hearing a coach yell to a 5-year-old player. “I couldn’t believe the attitude he had to this kindergarten kid. I wanted to yell back at him, ‘He’s here to goof off.’”


Don't miss ...


<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said.
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92.
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of the precious natural resource, suggests research.
Oceans were always there on Earth: Scientists
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Debunking previous theories that water came late to Earth well after the planet had formed, researchers have significantly moved back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.

Latest from the Network

Julia Stiles and Ray Liotta cast in Go With Me
Julia Stiles and Ray Liotta have been added to the cast of Anthony Hopkins' new film 'Go With Me'. The action-drama, which will begin shooting in mid-November, tells the story of a young woman who returns to her home...
Read more on Movie Balla
Seth Rogen to star in Steve Jobs biopic
Seth Rogen is in talks to star in Sony's Steve Jobs biopic. The 'Bad Neighbours' star is in negotiations with the studio to take on the role of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak - who created the Apple I computer and co-...
Read more on Movie Balla
Jennifer Lopez has struggled to love herself
Jennifer Lopez say she's spent much of her life beating herself up for not being good enough. The 'Dance Again' hitmaker, who has six-year-old twins Max and Emme with her third ex-husband, Marc Anthony, puts a lot of...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Julianne Hough's teary tribute to sister
Julianne Hough broke down in tears while praising her older sister. The 26-year-old singer/songwriter made an emotional speech in which she praised her older sister, Sharee Wise, admitting her sibling inspired her to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Tom Parker vows to look after Lindsay Lohan
Tom Parker has vowed to look after Lindsay Lohan. The former Wanted star is keeping a watchful eye over the 28-year-old actress as she performs in play 'Speed-the-Plow' in London because he wants to help the flame-...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting fell for husband over animals
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting knew her husband was 'The One' because he loves animals. The 'Big Bang Theory' star, who married tennis player Ryan Sweeting in December after just six months of dating, admits she fell in love with...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Orson Welles last film to be released
Orson Welles' final movie will finally be released next year. The acclaimed filmmaker had worked on 'The Other Side of the Wind' - which chronicles a temperamental film director battling with the Hollywood establishment...
Read more on Movie Balla
Game of Thrones stars get pay rise
'Games of Thrones' cast members will be paid $300,000 an episode. Five of the shows biggest stars - Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - have landed bumper payrises after...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Mike Tyson: I was abused
Mike Tyson claims he was sexually abused as a child. The 48-year-old retired boxer was ''snatched'' off the street when he was seven by an ''old man'', who he never saw again after the shocking one-time incident....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Amanda Bynes released from psychiatric facility
Amanda Bynes has been released from a psychiatric treatment facility. The 'Easy A' actress was spotted walking around Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, last night (30.10.14), 19 days after she was admitted to the hospital...
Read more on Celebrity Balla