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

Albania opens Communist-era nuclear bunker to public
Tirana, Nov 29 (IANS/EFE) The Albanian government has opened to the public the country's biggest Communist-era nuclear bunker, a secret symbol of the 40-year Cold War and the extravagances of the Communist regime.
Alleged flu vaccine-related deaths spark fears in Italy
Rome, Nov 29 (IANS) At least nine people were reported to have died in Italy for reasons allegedly linked to a flu vaccine which has been suspended by the Italian competent authority for drugs AIFA, media reported Friday.
Ireland to repay 9 billion euros IMF loans by year end
Dublin, Nov 29 (IANS) Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said Friday his country will repay 9 billion euros ($11 billion) of the bailout loans it owed to the International Monetary Fund(IMF) by the end of the year.
China to use new test to prevent Ebola
Beijing, Nov 28 (IANS) Chinese health authorities have approved three home-grown Ebola test reagents to be used for preventing the virus' spread.

Latest from the Network

Abigail Breslin slams ex Michael Clifford
Abigail Breslin has slammed her ex, Michael Clifford. The 'My Sister's Keeper' actress went on a date with the 5 Seconds of Summer guitarist last year but it seems as though it didn't end well after she released a song...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Kevin Bacon to sizzle in Jungle
Kevin Bacon is to star in 'Jungle'. The 56-year-old actor will appear in the survival drama, which is based on the true story of Yossi Ghinsberg, an adventurer who found himself lost in the Amazon rainforest for three...
Read more on Movie Balla
Mickey Rourke to return to boxing at 62
Mickey Rourke will return to boxing aged 62. The actor will come out of retirement and step into the ring tonight (11.28.14) for the first time in 20 years as he competes against 29-year-old Elliot Seymour. He said: ''...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Kristen Stewart: Actors are isolated
Kristen Stewart claims actors become ''isolated'' because of their fame. The 24-year-old actress has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world following her portrayal of Bella Swan in the 'Twilight' franchise...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Burt Reynolds to sell memorabilia
Burt Reynolds is selling over 600 personal items to stave off bankruptcy. The 78-year-old Hollywood star is reportedly struggling financially so will see awards, cars and costumes go under the hammer in Las Vegas next...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Eddie Redmayne's fear of failure
Eddie Redmayne has a fear of failure. The 'Theory of Everything' star has admitted that like fellow actor, Rachel Weisz, he worries about ever getting hired again. He said: ''I was reading an interview with Rachel Weisz...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Where to Find Black Friday Car Deals
The Black Friday Car Sales events have gained traction over the past couple of years. This year several major brands ran nation-wide commercials announcing their Car Black Friday deals. In the beginning it was creative...
Read more on Auto Balla
Indian Aces win inaugural IPTL tie
Manila, Nov 28 (IANS) The much-awaited inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) got off to a flying start with the Indian Aces notching an impressive 26-16 first victory against the Singapore Slammers at...
Read more on Sport Balla
Australian navy's largest ship commissioned
Canberra, Nov 28 (IANS) HMAS Canberra, a 27,000-tonne landing helicopter dock (LHD), was commissioned Friday, providing the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) with one of the world's most capable and sophisticated amphibious...
Read more on Politics Balla
Sindhu, Prannoy enter Macau Open semis
Macau, Nov 28 (IANS) Indian shuttlers P.V. Sindhu and H.S. Prannoy came out with contrasting wins to enter their respective semi-finals at the $120,000 Macau Open Grand Prix Gold here Friday. While defending champion...
Read more on Sport Balla