Coach Kayleigh Roy
One of the most important things to remember when teaching really young athletes is to help them learn to have fun and enjoy being active. Coach Kayleigh Roy of the U6 Thunder in Northwest Detroit is doing just that!
Many of Coach Kayleigh’s players had never touched a soccer ball when they arrived at their first practice, but they excel by the end of the season. The U6 Thunder team has a lot of spunk and Coach Kayleigh makes sure there is a great excitement for the sport.
“The most important thing about U6 soccer is not soccer. Some of my players go on to play U8 and U10, but a lot of them find other sports that are more up their alley later down the line,” she said, “I try to teach the team the importance of being active with something, even if it isn’t soccer. When athletes are that young, it is sometimes easier to trick them into loving sports, so we play sharks and minnows while dribbling or Dragon Tag when learning passing skills.”
During the previous fall season, Coach Kayleigh was proud of how much she saw her team improve with teamwork. At such a young age, there are usually big gaps as players are growing at different paces. One of her favorite memories of the season was when 3 of the stronger male players on the team spent the end of a game working on setting up the only female player that day for a goal. They cheered her on and coached her on where to be. Coach Kayleigh saw that they were putting their own pride aside so she could make a shot they get to make regularly.
Acts like this come from being great team players. The U6 Thunder team learns about teamwork through fun activities and drills that get them working together. For example, Coach Kayleigh will set up “islands” with cones that are surrounded by “lava.” In order to score a goal, the players need to depend on their teammates whose islands are closer to the lava. What a fun way to practice teamwork!
Although the players on her team are very young, Coach Kayleigh understands that academics are still a very important part of their lives. At the beginning of each practice, she will have the players practice passing while they wait for everyone to arrive. She takes this opportunity to ask her players what they did in school that day or how they are coming along with their homework.
“It isn’t always obvious at first, but players notice the things that coaches care about, and then they start to care about them,” Coach Kayleigh said about her players academics.
Coach Kayleigh balances her time between coaching for the U6 Thunder and working on the Community Investments and Activation team for Rock Venues and the Quicken Loans Family of Companies. Her job can be demanding, but helps her create positive change in the city. She works to prioritize her time to keep up with work and coaching.
The U6 Thunder players are lucky to have such a great coach!