Smoky Mountains Soccer Academy

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Last spring, Smoky Mountains Soccer Academy started operating in Gatlinburg, at the multi-million dollar facility known as Rocky Top Sports World. It costs $100 per child for ten weeks. The practice is one hour on a weekday. They have no games over the weekend.

Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy - players and coaches

Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy – my son’s group of players and coaches

The main coach is a teacher and a soccer coach in the public school system and he said, “I believe weekends are for the family. Plus, I need my weekends off. I’m a teacher.” I could not agree with him more. Continue reading »

This is actually an answer to prayer because my husband wanted the kids enrolled in a team sport and it was virtually impossible to find anything that did not involve weekend hours. We also like to keep weekends for the family and not for sporting activities per se.

Personally, I think children can develop very well even without a team sport. This is not about preparing them for a career. This is more about fun and physical education.

But I have seen a lot of character growth in my children from being involved in soccer. As always, my husband has good instincts. This reminds me of one of the early dates he and I had. When he was telling me how he dealt with a delicate business situation, I remarked that he was probably the most humble and amazing leader I have ever met.

Soccer coach and young players

Coach Zach Schrandt and my daughter’s age group

So I asked him, “How did you get to have such an amazing character?” He replied simply, “Football.” I teared up right then and there, in the middle of a restaurant. My then boyfriend started looking around, hoping that people will not think he said something horrible which made me cry. So I burst out laughing, because he was just so worried about me first of all and then about himself.

Of all the crazy things people say about football, this rough, manly, tackle-them-down, tough sport, I had never heard this one. My husband is a gentle, gentle soul. And he learned his gentleness in football? What am I missing? That is why I was crying. I had been taught by conservative Christians that football and any other competitive sport is against the gospel message. That we should shun such activities like the plague. And here was proof positive that football, like anything, is what you make of it. Such a breath of fresh air!

Since then, we have decided that soccer at Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy should be part of our homeschool for several reasons:

  1. It is closer to home than driving to Berean Christian School for their soccer practice on Wednesdays.
  2. Adidas sponsors the program. It may be small now, but is has potential for growth.
  3. The coaches are all certified by different national organizations.
  4. It is good exercise for the kids.
  5. They get to interact with other children.
  6. They receive guidance from somebody other than mom and dad.
  7. They spend time in fresh air and sunshine.
  8. They play games. Especially my daughter’s group, the youngest players, they pretend they are sharks or elephants or whatever and they run after the ball a certain way, they control the ball so the other sharks don’t get it etc. It’s a lot of fun for the kids. I could not provide this kind of fun in my backyard. I just don’t have the energy to learn about this and implement it.
  9. They learn soccer skills. You see, they don’t just give them a ball and say, “Now go play soccer.” The coach to children ratio is very low, 1:4-1:8. They learn to dribble and control the ball through very closely observed exercises.
  10. Soccer scouts come by regularly. A soccer scholarship does not interest me as much as a National Merit Scholarship, I will be honest with you. But you never know what children like to do when they finally grow up.

Since spring, we have done a Soccer Camp at SMSA and now we just enrolled them for the fall. It has worked out beautifully with our schedule. Things have a way of working out.

Soccer Camp

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Last week, my children attended Soccer Camp. The official title of this event was Elite Camp and it was organized by Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy. They met Monday-Friday, 9am-11am.

Soccer camp for ages 3-6

My daughter (red shirt) with her age group and Coach Zach plus assistants.

The weather was nice. We had two days with overcast skies, so the sun did not beat on us too badly. However, my children still got quite a tan during the rest of the days, despite the sunblock I applied on their faces, arms, and legs. Continue reading »

They split the children in several age groups: 3-6, 7-9, 10-13 and high school. Since my daughter is six and my son is eight, they were in separate groups. Some of the coaches were originally from England, former players in the Premier League, but they coach at high school and college level here in the US right now. We enjoyed listening to their British accent, of course. It makes you want to get on a plane for London just to immerse yourself in those sounds for a few days.

Water balloon fight at soccer camp

Water balloons were a hit, especially as the sun came out in full force by 10am.

The kids learned a lot about soccer and loved running around and making new friends. The coach for ages 3-6 played an amazing array of games with them. Games about sharks, pirates, giraffes, all sorts of things – one would never know this was about soccer if one was not watching.

Soccer Camp for young children

Lots of assistant coaches for the youngest players

This young set of players loved it, of course, and poured their heart out to play these games, probably not even realizing they were learning to dribble the ball and do all sorts of soccer tricks.

Soccer camp ages 7-9

My son (green shorts) at soccer camp – the only boy in his age group

I made some new friends on the sidelines as well. I met some wonderful parents who love their children very much and we had stimulating conversations about educational choices and how the direction of the American educational system has gone downhill since John Dewey came onto the scene with his progressive ideas in the 1930s.

Great fun was had by all and we shall return to Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy for their fall semester.

Buy Local

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About ten years ago, I became aware that the US was going green. It was a recycling revolution. Words like “going green,” “sustainability,” and “recycling” entered the every day banter in mass media. Then, of course, “buy local” followed closely behind.

Well, we have been travelling to Knoxville for four different activities for the past three years. We are getting tired of the drive. It is two hours both ways, but, of course, you have to also consider driving between the activities once we are there.

Anna Porter Public Library Story Time

We have been attending Story Time at our local library for seven years now.

It’s not the gas money. It’s my emotional fuel. I get tired and then I bring the kids home late in the evening, around 9pm, and by the time we get to bed it is 10pm. The next day, we are dragging and it takes us another 24 hours to recover and get back on schedule.  Continue reading »

So many people have been telling me that what I am doing with this commute to Knoxville is hard, I have started believing them. My husband has also been telling me we need to support local providers of classes for children instead of driving to Knox County.

Besides, when the kids asked for Tae Kwon Do lessons, which they take five minutes from our house, it spoiled me for life. Wow! Can I really believe it? Hop in the car 10 minutes before the event? Get there in five and have time to spare to chat with the trainer before the class starts? And then I can walk on the indoor course with a book in my hand while they are learning self-defense skill? Yes, please. I’ll have another helping of that!

So when Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy made a big splash announcement in our local paper about beginning a 10-week program on March 9, my husband took notice. We switched from doing soccer at Berean Christian School, one hour from our house, to doing it at Rocky Top Sports Center, five minutes away.

Which brought about a chain reaction. Do we want to rush to Knoxville after soccer and do Adventurers from 6-7:30pm anymore? Tough decision. The year is almost over. How responsible is it for me to just drop out? I am not only thinking about the kids’ badges – we can finish them at home and still receive their pins and be part of the Induction Ceremony for the year – but about the class I am teaching to five-year-olds.

As it turns out, we only had three classes left. And two of the moms are really good teachers, in fact they are homeschooling moms. One in particular has shared with me that she would be willing to teach if I needed a break or my kids got ill. So I talked it over with her and she agreed to finish off the year for me. Thank God for people who step up to bail me out!

She was also doing too much in 2015 and dropped a few hats she was wearing, going into 2016. Not only did she understand me, she had the willingness and energy to continue carrying the torch.

It has been a hard decision to make, but really I should have quit Adventurers a long time ago, after the first night when I got ugly with my children in the car on the way home. I am doing too much and too much is not good for my stress level or for the kids’ psyche.

They dislike not doing Adventurers anymore. They made friends over there and enjoyed the program very much. But something has got to give. And I even gave them a choice between Tae Kwon Do and Adventurers and they chose to give up Adventurers. It’s good for them to understand we need to make choices and sacrifices.

Even now I still think we are doing too many extracurricular activities. The little one is still learning boundaries and she makes things take twice as long as they should. Next year, she will be in first grade and I will need more time to do “school” with her.

As it stands, time is at a premium around here and every minute or hour we can spare from traveling can be put to really good use.