Thursday, 10 May 2012

What does it take to become a sporting hero?

What does it take to become a sporting hero?
By Christine Stanschus – CEO Little Kickers, based in Toronto, Canada

My husband, Frank, and I were fortunate to be able to attend a fundraising event in Toronto last week, which was organized by the CAN Fund – Canadian Athletes Now.  I have to admit that until I went along to the event, I had little understanding about the lives of athletes who are preparing for the Olympics, and their motivations.

We had the opportunity to see presentations by, and to meet, a number of ex-Olympic medal winners and to hear their stories around their participation in sport.

I had always assumed that athletes who achieve Olympic performance levels are probably born as naturally superior physical beings to the rest of us, and that whilst a certain amount of effort is bound to be involved, they are ultimately “made that way”.  It’s possible for the chosen few to become Olympians, but not for most “ordinary” people.  I assumed it would be obvious from the first time these talented athletes picked up a hockey stick / kicked a football etc, that their gift would shine through and they would be earmarked as a future Olympian and would be set onto a training conveyor belt which would propel them effortlessly to the Olympic Games. 

Whilst many of the athletes who spoke at the event described the buzz they got from competing in their chosen sport right from day one, I was amazed at the way they described their ongoing involvement.   The effort involved in forcing themselves to train when they really didn’t feel like it, the physical discomfort which often bordered on pain, the “down” moments, when they felt they were underachieving.  There were, however, certain characteristics the athletes shared, and messages which were repeated over and over again throughout the presentations and conversations.  The first being the overwhelming sense of pride they feel in representing their country.  Also, the respect and admiration they felt for their teammates and their determination to do their best for “the team”, the dedication and hours of training required in order to achieve their dreams….  Many of them had stories of injuries, which should have resulted in an end to their Olympic careers – serious joint injuries, serious accidents incurred while training etc.  They all managed to overcome these, and to go on to achieve greatness.

The other thing they all had in common was the huge support they had received from their families.  From instilling an early passion for their sport and a drive to do their best, to more mundane things like getting up early to drive them to practice and being a constant source of encouragement when the going got tough.  They were unanimous in their views that without the support of their family they would never have achieved their Olympic goals. 

So whilst physical attributes obviously contribute to the make-up of great athletes, the support of a strong family is equally as important.   So the next time your Little Kicker wakes you up at 7am on a Saturday morning, asking you to take them to football class, remember that all 11 spaces on the 2024 Olympic football squad have yet to be filled…!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A wise man once said....

A wise man once said 'to be better than someone else, you must do two things'

1) Never give away too much advice.

Luckily for us, we have a slightly different angle! With over 600 coaches around the UK alone, we, as a company, are constantly coming up with new ideas and ways in which we can engage our children. Our excellent creative coaches who work tirelessly to make the sessions as fun as possible come up with new games and ways of delivering a message in a fun and exciting way. The beauty of having the company working on a franchise basis is that each coach, franchisee and customer, is wanting everyones area to be just as successful. Which is why, when a new game or idea is dreamed up, we can distribute it to everyone across the UK (and worldwide) with ease. Some of our best games have been created by the kids themselves; we encourage that confidence and creativity and we nurture it with the imaginative games we play.

I hope by now the penny has dropped with the opening quote...!

Have you got any ideas on how we can improve our services? Do you fancy yourself as a coach and have an idea for a game? We are constantly coming up with new activities, but we would love to hear about your ideas as well!

If you do have any ideas, or thoughts on how we can improve (if it's possible!), then either leave a comment underneath, or send me an email directly to,

We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Sprechen zie Football?

Bonjour, or should I say Yiassou having just returned from the Greek island of Crete. My girlfriend and I had a lovely time, a much deserved break for us both, a chance to relax in the sun, snorkel and various other activities.

It was about the fourth day into our holiday, and one of the cleaners who smiled so much it could almost be considered a condition, greeted us with a big smile and a loud “kalimera,”! Needless to say Stacey and I looked at each other slightly puzzled as to what “kalimera” meant. We later found out that it meant ‘good morning’, however it took us four days (out of a possible 7) to realise that we didn’t know any Greek. We were in Crete, but knew nothing of their language.

In our defence, upon arrival we could have easily thought we had landed in Birmingham, we were greeted by a long string of midlanders, it felt like the Costa del Coventry. Upon arrival to the airport and getting to the hotel, to being around the pool and on the beach, people would talk to us in English. This worried me slightly, was I that pale that they knew I was English? I had no Harry Potter books on me, and I didn’t drink tea so it couldn’t have been living up to the stereotype, and Stacey refused to allow me to pack my union jack bandana, much to my dismay!!!

We felt rude, we were in someone else’s country and we hadn’t even tried speaking their language. From then on we made a real conscious effort to speak in their language, admittedly for them to answer in English but at least we had tried.

During the same day I discovered a new language. A revelation. A language that we could all speak, no matter what country of origin. I found out that I could speak “Football”! I discovered this whilst walking past the numerous taverns and bars, each showing a different football match as to cater for everyone. I found myself speaking “Football” to so many different people.

Football has become an international language in itself. Adored and loved by so many, everyone has their own opinion on teams, players and managers, and regardless of if you want to hear someone’s opinion, if you speak Football you will receive it! Luckily for me, the island was full of Man Utd supporters, so I felt at home amongst friends. Whether it was just “what a goal” and sticking your thumbs up at them, or just naming players such as Messi and shaking your head in disbelief of his mastery of a football, it became a conversation, somewhat disjointed, but a conversation none the less.

Football brings people together. From all different walks of life, locally and as I found out - internationally. At Little Kickers we have sessions running on the other side of the world. And yes, some of us have slightly different accents, some may even speak another language, but speaking the language of Football has allowed people to share ideas, discuss opinions and bring people closer together. At Little Kickers children learn to love the game in the correct atmosphere, the love for the game so that in 18 years time, when they go off on their first holiday you know they are that little bit safer in the country because they can speak the same language….Football.

Note: If you are a Man Utd fan, do not holiday in Liverpool and expect to speak the same language. Lesson learnt.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Hardest job in the world

After having had a few lemonades in my local public house, a friend and I were discussing our professions and our enjoyment of them. We then went off subject trying to list the most difficult jobs in the world, including the British Prime Minister and the next Manchester United manager; we listed the obvious - Firemen, the Police and all the emergency services. Admittedly we did digress somewhat, for example, the most difficult job in the world being selling doors – door to door…‘bing-bong, o you’ve got one, never mind’!!! It then became quite competitive as to who had the more enjoyable job.

I am pleased to say I won hands down! I listed the obvious clichés in it being rewarding and satisfying; however clichés are only in existence because they hold elements of truth and value. I also labelled seeing the development of children as a colossal reason, in addition having an impact on the improvement of health and fitness, and working for a company that holds high moral values.

I love Little Kickers, and I have been a proud employee in various different positions since 2003. It is difficult to call it work, as working with such excellent and passionate colleagues and like minded coaches it makes it fun and worthwhile. And obviously your children are the highlight of my weeks - I have learnt to expect the unexpected when dealing with children, but even that thought does not prepare you for some of the genius comments that children come up with! It’s nice to see my games being put into practice, and children enjoying them and sometimes the Mums and Dads even more so!

I would love to spend more time with the children, (I realise your all shouting easier said than done!) however, we do only get an hour a week with your mini superstars. As some of you may or may not know, we have a Facebook site. On this Facebook site you can find my ‘top secret garden games’ – games and exercises I have created for you and your little ones to enjoy at home. If you are one of the 8 people in the world that doesn’t have Facebook, fear not – we have put them all on the ‘What’s New’ page on this website. Take a look and give them a go! Why not send us a snap of your child playing the games and we will upload them onto our website!

In the mean time, enjoy the rest of the summer, and absorb every ray of sun that the skies are begrudgingly giving us.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Full-time Mum VS Part-time Mum

By Yvette, Director of Little Kickers NZ

I recently got back in contact with an old school friend who I found out was pregnant with her first baby. She messaged me back asking if I was lucky enough to be a ‘full-time mum’ i.e. a stay at home mum. It took a while for me to get my head around that question and how I would answer it.
I could have easily asked the same question to expectant friends prior to having children myself but my views on the ideals and benefits of being a stay at home mum versus a working mum drastically changed now having kids.
Pre-kids I had a lot of patience, in good health and had good energy levels. I am fortunate enough to have my husband work a 5 minutes drive away with the leniency to come home if required and an understanding boss who happens to have 2 sets of twins! When my boys (twins) reached around 15 months old I was finding it increasingly hard to keep up my energy levels and patience to survive day on day. It became regular practice for me to call my husband up once a week pulling my hair out wondering how I was going to survive the next hour and it’s not as if my boys are different to any other toddlers. I soon realised something needed to change maybe it was time to look at some part-time work. I love my boys to bits but I felt like I wasn’t being the best parent that I could be.
I actually find my self luckier being a ‘part-time mum’ than a ‘full-time mum’ and I don’t mean in terms of finances, I mean in terms of energy levels and patience.
We were lucky enough to stumble across Little Kickers which has been my savour in life in terms of how I care for my kids and in a way my sanity!
We started off with an independent nanny who luckily the boys adored to bits but unfortunately she left with minimum notice and left us stuck as to what to do. It felt like ages that I spent discussing the pros and cons of day-care and whether we should investigate this option further. I had only recently read a report from one of the boys’ paediatricians Simon Rowley who wrote about the negative impact of day-care on children under the age of 2 so I was even more reluctant to go down this route. My main concern was the boys’ happiness as I thought they may be stressed or uncared for versus a nanny. My pre-conceived understanding on day-care was that there wouldn’t be enough carers to properly care for of all the children.
How wrong was I, after visiting 5 centres I found the perfect centre for my boys. The carers were so loving and understanding, they kept to my boys routine, fed them healthy lunches and had more than enough energy to keep up with them.
I spent 3 days with the boys at the centre until I felt as though I could leave them alone. There were a few tears at the start (by them) but once I was around the corner and out of sight they soon stopped. They now attend day-care 3 mornings and 1 short day a week and what a better parent and person I am for it.
I feel like a new person and I know I am a much better parent for it. During my working day I get to speak to other business’s, parents, suppliers, employees and generally feel like I exist as a person and not just someone’s mum. When I pick the boys up from day-care I have this rush of love for them. I especially love it when they don’t know that I’ve arrived and I get to see them playing with the other children and then when they do see me I get an assortment of emotions from them. These range from running away from me because they want to stay and play to dancing around in excitement and giving me huge hugs as they wave goodbye to the carers (even if I’m not ready to go yet).
Once home I put work aside and use all my energy in interacting and playing with them, I adore hearing their giggles and now have the patience and energy to deal with their terrible two’s better. I love that they come home from day-care having learnt new words or actions to songs and seeing them develop socially.
I’ve realised my life needs more than just kids to make it complete and being a ‘part-time mum’ works perfectly for me, I actually feel lucky that I can be one over a ‘full-time’ mum. I am sill a wife, business women and a friend and to add to that a loving mum who is trying to find that perfect work/life balance.
My hat goes off to full-time mums as I often feel you don’t get enough recognition for what you do in today’s society and how hard your days can be.
Yvette; mum, wife, business partner, coach, friend....

Thursday, 24 June 2010

World Cup Predictions

As I sit at my computer wondering whether to purchase shares in the vuvuzela, I am trying to create a blog that doesn’t mention anything bout the World Cup. It seems impossible not to mention it…so I will.

I had originally hoped to write this blog before England’s last game, however I had a feeling the result of the match would affect the direction and tone somewhat! Looking back on the games that have already been played, it’s been such an unpredictable tournament. The French were knocked out very early on, and who’s to say the players would have participated any further anyway? The favourites, Spain, took a risky route losing their first game but managed to get through.

So, due to the unpredictability of the tournament, I thought I would try and make some solid predictions.

If you would kindly join me in my Little Kickers time machine, please turn your phones off and keep your hands in at all times; as I take you forward to Sunday 11th July moments after the World Cup Final…

After the Argentineans were disqualified for fielding too many players on the pitch at one time, the Irish have been flown over to replace them. Unfortunately the Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni couldn’t make the tournament due to the short notice, so our very own Niamh O’Connor from Little Kickers took charge. The Irish made their way to the semi finals where they took on the Brazilians, in the closing minutes of the game – Robbie Keane handled the ball and blasted it in the net; the French referee unfortunately didn’t see the violation.

And there it was - the perfect World Cup final, England Vs Ireland. The vuvuzelas covered in the green and gold of Ireland, and the red and white of England. The revelation that Lionel Messi was adopted and that he was actually English meant that he was eligible to play for Fabio Capello’s team.

My loyalties were split. My Mum being Irish and my Dad being incredibly English, I had a decision to make. I went with my heart and proudly wore my crisp white England shirt (I was wearing green and gold underwear). After the World Cup committee had said that the tournament had lost its sparkle, they proceeded to invite Terry Wogan to be the guest referee (best they could get on a budget). 0-0 with ten minutes to go, Beckham whips off his suit and starts putting his boots on, in his vest and pants (he forgot his kit) he was put on in place of the tired Wayne Rooney. Beckham was fouled just outside the box, he placed the ball down, took three steps back and one to the side, began his run up to the ball, and then having ran the length of the pitch, Robert Green, England’s blundering goalkeeper, pushed Beckham out of the way and belted the ball that flew into the top corner of the Irish net. England - World Cup champions 2010!

Little Kickers don’t create miracles…but if we did, they’d probably be the best miracles in the world.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Last night I had the pleasure of going to see Derren Brown’s new show - “Enigma”. It was truly amazing, and even the biggest sceptics amongst the audience left utterly spellbound. We were asked as an audience not to reveal anything that goes on within the show, so as to not ruin it for others, so I will stand by my promise. If you get the chance to see it though, please do!

I have always been somewhat of a sceptic, and I have an annoying habit of digging for logical explanations. However I was amazed by the cynicism of some attendees who I overheard discussing the show on the way out of the theatre, and saying “they must have been actors” and “they’re all drama students”. Their basis for this utterance stemmed from the method of selection of audience participants, who were seemingly randomly chosen by means of a Frisbee being thrown into the crowd.

It irritated me slightly that people were so quick to pull the show apart. Even if they were all actors (and I am not suggesting this by any means), could we not just enjoy the spectacle, sit there and absorb brilliant showmanship and not dampen the experience by forming our own rationales? As a human race we have an innate urge to form an unequivocal reasoning for everything.

As a child I never doubted things I saw. When my Granddad told me that he had my nose – I wanted it back! When my Grandma told me that there was a coin behind my ear, I spent hours in the mirror looking for it, but, as if by magic, when she looked she managed to find it!

As we grow up we “grow out of” the ability to accept things for what they appear to be. We have a constant yearning to know the ins and outs of everything. Now, I realise that this has helped us develop science and technology to today’s advanced levels, and the evolution of the human race from Neanderthals to the sophisticated beings we are today would not have happened had this thirst for knowledge not been inbred (although if the Big Brother contestants are anything to go by, that is somewhat questionable!) However I can’t help but think that sometimes we take it too far.

At Little Kickers we love that our kids are just kids. And I also think our classes provide many parents with an element of escapism from their own ‘grown up’ world. For an hour a week, our kids can believe that they are stood on a pirate ship, or that they are in the jungle amongst tigers and lions. Our excellent coaches are taught to utilise the imagination of the children, and use games and techniques that develop sound basic football skills, but the children learn without realising they are doing so. So when they are running away from the sleeping bear, they are practicing turning, balance, awareness of space and other elements of football. Isn’t this the most fun way of learning?
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