Recently at Pragnya, we have been trying out something new and fun: the SOCCER SESSIONS. From an ally’s perspective, the soccer sessions are fantastic because they add some flavor to the weekly routine. They are a different and exciting way for out neurodiverse friends to enjoy time with their allies and friends, while also being active. This is also a good experience because not only do they get to interact with their regular allies, but also the young soccer players. The soccer sessions are another step towards autism acculturation as well as the integration of neurodiverse kids into the neurotypical world.
A normal session is broken down into drills and a scrimmage. The drills are more structured, with the soccer players guiding the kids and the allies through different dribbling, scoring, and blocking exercises. The drills can be repetitive and tough, but as an ally, I see this as an essential part of sessions. It allows for maximum interaction between the allies and the kids, leading them to develop an understanding. The neurotypical soccer players and the allies enhance their empathy, patience, and compassion by working to make sure that the kids have a good experience learning the game. By going through a tough experience with the allies and soccer players, the kids have the experience of going through an everyday soccer practice and can relate better to their neurotypical friends.
While the drills are important and develop a mentor to student relationship, the scrimmage is the opposite, switching the relationship to one between peers. This is where kids and allies have fun together, working as a team and really becoming friends. The scrimmage is a great way to balance out the focused drills. This is where I see the kids really enjoying themselves, smiling and laughing alongside their peers. They really open up and show a new side, one that isn’t really visible in our regular sessions.
The effectiveness of the soccer session doesn’t originate from the sport itself. It comes from the moments that the kids share with their peers and their interactions during the sessions. It comes from everyone stepping out of their comfort zone and accepting each other for their abilities. Most importantly it comes from being able to enjoy a sport that is not necessarily simple or straightforward as one large community. The soccer sessions definitely do their part in forwarding Pragnya’s mission...in a fun way of course! :)