Football Fun for Everyone

【Interview with Paul Smith, Founder of Asia Pacific Soccer Schools & Kinder Kicks】

Having run coaching companies in Hong Kong since 2003, Paul Smith has a wealth of experience to draw from when it comes to developing soccer or football programs for children. The founder of Kinder Kicks and Asia Pacific Soccer Schools (APSS) currently oversees programs for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. Kinder Kicks offers classes for children aged 2-5, whilst Asia Pacific Soccer Schools caters to 6-15 year olds. Smith explains that the classes are different, and are tailored to meet the needs of specific age groups. “Kinder Kicks is about movement, co-ordination and mechanics, whereas the APSS program is more specific to football skills, the different techniques, and understanding the game” he says. He emphasises that one important factor links the programs though, and that is that they are fun for the kids, regardless of the session outcomes and objectives – this is what keeps the kids interested, and wanting to come back term after term.

When it comes to delivering fun classes, having the right coaches is critical. Smith takes the recruitment of his coaches very seriously. The Kinder Kicks and APSS coaches are a very international group, coming from a range of cultures and backgrounds. All are very experienced, are qualified through their various football associations, and have undergone background checks. However, in addition to their coaching qualifications, they must all demonstrate one key characteristic: the ability to engage and motivate young players. In other words, Smith seeks out coaches who are good with children.

In the years that he has been involved in coaching football in Hong Kong, Smith has seen interest in the sport grow, as more and more Hong Kong parents are encouraging their children to play sports. The increase in number of football schools and clubs for kids has also been a positive trend, providing the critical mass for kids to participate in different football leagues and competitive tournaments. Over 2,000 students are currently enrolled in APSS programmes, and inevitably their abilities and priorities fall across a broad spectrum. The best players are selected by APSS coaches to join the squad program, where they progress through the Hong Kong Junior Football League and then eventually go on to play in the Hong Kong Football Association’s League - the most challenging local league. Whilst APSS has a large squad program to cater for as many players as possible, they have also set up a non-squad program to ensure that more players can have access to match experience. In addition, APSS players have the opportunity to participate in a number of overseas tours in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Germany.

By offering ample opportunity for kids at all skill levels to have fun playing football, Smith also reinforces the message that people do not have to play sport with the end goal of being a professional. As he points out, “playing sport is good to stay fit and healthy, and in certain countries such as the United States, sport is strongly linked to education so it can benefit a young person and their development.” He adds that “football is also a team game; the social benefits of playing and co-operating with other can never be understated.”

With the majority of Kinder Kicks and APSS participants coming from referrals, Smith understands first-hand how important word-of-mouth is in Hong Kong. will be able to provide an avenue for parents to share their feedback more efficiently – as Smith says, “we welcome all reviews as it’s good to get all types of feedback and respond accordingly to our customers needs”.

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