The Cook Islands Football Association (CIFA) Sports Academy has been an array of colours and abuzz with laughter for the last two Saturday mornings as youngsters have flocked in for the ‘Just Play’ football programme.
Into its third week, the programme has attracted 100-plus children aged 5-13 between 9am to 11am each Saturday with sessions continuing through until 8 August. So far it has been blessed with fine and cool weather.
The ‘Just Play’ initiative, which started last year, is proving as popular as ever according to CIFA Development Officer Jimmy Katoa. Apart from numbers on the increase, Katoa said they have also identified some up-and-coming footballers.
“The programme is all about giving kids the round ball and watching how they fare with it. We had our second Saturday and we are seeing consistency in some of these young ones. There’s a lot of good raw talent coming through,” Katoa said.
“Last year was great for the first time. This year the support from parents, coaches and player numbers has increased every Saturday and we are receiving very good and positive comments from parents saying that their young ones can’t wait until the next Saturday.
“Most of the parents stay and help with the coaching, getting involved and having fun as well. Some drop the kids off on their way to the market but they do make it back to watch the kids for a while before the end of the programme.”
‘Just Play’ is the brainchild of Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Technical Director Jim Selby. The programme encourages children to play football and pursue good health, good eating habits and physical activity while improving technical ability and enjoyment of the sport.
Katoa’s advertisement on local television invites parents and caregivers to “bring the kids, meet and mingle with other parents, get involved with the coaching”.
“This is what the programme is all about, creating an opportunity for parents and children to come together and enjoy the moment,” Katoa said.
Story courtesy of CIFA Media