Heather Massie's daughter Meredith plays on the field with her team.

This spring, seven-year-old Meredith stepped back onto the soccer field with YMCA Youth Sports. She had only played a couple times in preschool, so it was like she was learning the game for the first time.

Meredith’s mom, Heather, loved watching her daughter play with friends in a positive atmosphere. That was one of Meredith’s favorite parts, too. “I liked being with my friends,” she says. “My coach was nice, and I learned to kick with the side of my foot.”

Meredith wasn’t the only one to make new friends. Heather and the other parents bonded as they cheered on their girls and watched them learn new skills. “Meredith was timid at the beginning, and each game, she would kick the ball a little more. I watched her increasingly understand the game as the season went on,” Heather says.

Heather credits much of Meredith’s success to the team’s diligent and understanding volunteer coach, Coach Hill. “He taught the girls soccer skills through fun games and drills at practices,” she says. “Meredith probably didn’t even realize she was learning soccer skills because she was having so much fun. She is better at soccer than when she started, and she wants to play again. When a coach helps your child improve and love the game, that is the sign of time well spent.”

Meredith and team lined up with their soccer balls

Coach Hill rotated the girls through different positions so that they could try new responsibilities and experiences. “He was very patient and appropriately competitive,” she says. “He never yelled or shamed anyone. I especially appreciated how he would catch players doing something well and would openly encourage them. This reinforcement made a player want to repeat their good work!”

In addition to a season full of encouragement, Coach Hill united his team (and parents!) for special moments. He brought cupcakes to celebrate the last game—Meredith’s favorite memory—and commemorated the final practice with a parents versus players game.

“The parents had a chance to test their soccer skills, and the girls saw what their parents could do,” Heather shares. “It got a bit competitive, and the parents brought their best, but in the end the girls pulled out a win!”

Learn more about YMCA Youth Sports and join a team with one of our incredible volunteer coaches at ymcamidtn.org/youth-sports.