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Why is HappyFeet Perfect for Your School?


HappyFeet Sources of Motivation

Enjoyment and Play
Desire for Distinction, Success, and Achievement
Social Approval
Influence of the Coach/Teacher Example
Variety in practice
Praise and Encouragement
In Appreciation of the Value of Activities

Enjoyment & Play

    This is the primary impetus to activity of a non-survival nature and must be the major emphasis of any preschool fitness program. John Huizinga (1949) defined play as, "Free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being non-serious but at the same time absorbing the child intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest and no profit can be gained from it."

    Enjoyment is central to the concept of play and must be seen as one of the major priorities of the proficient preschool teacher. As a motivational factor there is possibly none greater than the enjoyment provided by the satisfaction of the play characteristic. Towards this end the HappyFeet session for players between the ages of 3 and 6 should include soccer related games, stories, songs and nursery rhymes of a fun nature. The emphasis of these fun elements should be primarily on amusement and pleasure. Should the young child be feeling any pressure from specific skill demands the fun game will help him relax and motivate him towards a more conducive attitude. The adept preschool teacher will structure preschool activity sessions for maximum enjoyment on every occasion, thereby ensuring that the young child acquires and retains the skill benefit but learns that the outcome of the activity is not as severe as feared. The "HappyFeet" approach focuses on the two most fun skills of all team sports, i.e. dribbling and shooting. Because of this the motivation of participating children is increased exponentially.

    "It is not enough to make someone learn, you must make them want to learn!" - Author Unknown

    With the "HappyFeet" method, it can be legitimately reasoned that players develop much more specific and beneficial levels of fitness, while enjoying the motivational benefits provided by working in the vastly more enjoyable situations that comprise the fun core of this philosophy. Therefore, it can be seen that by encouraging play and enjoyment the skilled preschool teacher reduces the negatives involved with fear or dislike of practice content and maximizes enjoyment based incentive, making it possible for greater intrinsic learning to occur.

    "Why we play as children is not because it is our work or because it is how we learn, though both statements are true; we play because we are wired for joy, it is imperative as human beings." - John Thorn

    The HappyFeet philosophy is the passionate, fun-filled experience that advances creative skill acquisition and provides the motivational and neuromuscular base that maximizes early physical potential. The most successful soccer country in world history is Brazil. A young Brazilian sociologist, Gilberto Freyre, published a book in 1933 that championed playfulness and mischief as national Brazilian characteristics. In soccer terms the Brazilian took an orderly British game and turned it into a "dance of irrational surprises". In 1938 he wrote, "Our style of playing football contrasts with the Europeans because of a combination of qualities of surprise, malice, astuteness and agility, and at the same time playfulness, brilliance and individual spontaneity…Our passes…our dummies, our flourishes with the ball, the touch of dance and subversiveness that marks the Brazilian style…seem to show psychologists and sociologists in a very interesting way the roguery and the flamboyance of the Brazilian that today is in every true affirmation of what is Brazil."

    "Surprise, astuteness, agility, playfulness, flamboyance, brilliance, a touch of dance and individual spontaneity" are all essential components of the "HappyFeet" curriculum.

    The following table suggests appropriate fun/learning ratios:

    • 3, 4 & 5 year olds - 90% fun and 10% pure technical learning
    • 6 & 7 year olds - 70% fun with skill conditions and 30% pure learning
    • 8 & 9 year olds - 50 % fun with skill conditions and 50% pure learning
    • 10 & 11 year olds - 40% fun with skill conditions and 60% pure learning
    • 12& 13 year olds - 30% fun with skill conditions and 70% pure learning
    • 14 & 15 year olds - 20% fun with skill conditions and 80 % pure learning
    • 16 and above – 10% fun with skill conditions and 90% pure learning/competition

    "If we enjoy what we do, we will be successful. If we do not enjoy what we do, we will not be successful. Our success in any occupation depends upon enjoyment. Loving our work makes the difference. He who finds joy in his work, has found success at last." - Author unknown 


    This is perhaps the single major component of a young person's existence therefore it holds a leading position in the ladder of preschool teaching priorities. Although the majority of motivating factors influencing an individual to participate are learned, one of the foremost conditions that drives a person to physical activity and which directs his interests to the acquisition of physical skill is unlearned, i.e. the need for a certain amount of muscular exercise. The human being derives pleasure from muscular activity because the young body reacts favorably to dynamic exercise. This kinesthetic sensation is a muscular force that has been called muscular sensuousness. The goal here is the immediate one of enjoying movement for movement's sake. Therefore, simple participation in movement activity provides intrinsic motivation and what the individual does or learns is a by-product of the desire to engage in the activity for its movement satisfaction and rewards.

    The "HappyFeet" coaching philosophy satisfies this need for activity by keeping the preschool class as dynamic as possible. In this phase, optimum use of movement can be achieved by keeping any story, song, nursery rhyme or fun game demonstration and verbal instruction brief, before allowing the players to join in and attempt the highlighted physical skill component. Once the children are actively participating the coach should deal with individual technical refinement on a one-to-one basis so that the rest of the group can maximize the motivational benefits of a dynamic practice. 

Desire for Distinction, Success & Achievement

    Any child not achieving a measure of distinction and success (either intrinsic or extrinsic) will soon fulfill the need to prove himself by turning to alternative pursuits.

    "The mainspring of creativity appears to be the same tendency which we discover so deeply as the curative force in psychotherapy, man's tendency to actualize himself, to become his potentialities. By this I mean the organic and human life, the urge to expand, extend, develop, mature - the tendency to express and activate all the capacities of the organism, or the self." - Carl Rogers

    The need to achieve is specific to each activity and situation. Furthermore, the level of this need influences risk taking, the sustenance of practice and momentary performance. Many people need to prove themselves and feel they are as good as or better than others. This need for power has been called the mastery or self-assertion motive and the preschool teacher should note that the satisfaction of this need is present in preschool age children. Towards this end, the preschool teacher will:

    • First structure classes so that the success rate is extremely high. This initial total success experience will reinforce competency and result in further pursuit of excellence.
    • Second, encourage the individual to set goals that are within reach.
    • Third, give some measure of effectiveness (knowledge of results).
    • Fourth, allow the child to get real pleasure from attaining a goal before a new goal is set.

    From the above we can see that the preschool teacher should make every attempt to reinforce or encourage further skill acquisition. This should be backed up by a constant flow of information and expertise. Thoughtful structuring of the environment is necessary to ensure that every child improves optimally in skill. This skill improvement will contribute significantly to individual levels of motivation.

    With all this in mind it should be recognized that the "HappyFeet" philosophy builds the distinction, success and achievement value beyond that of any other approach. If a young child learns to dribble and strike a soccer ball well that player distinguishes himself from the masses without these abilities. Children trained in less challenging skills will benefit from this motivational source to a far lesser degree. 


    This is an intrinsic motivating drive of immense power, especially in young children exploring their capacities for improvement. The young child is stimulated to activity by learned or unlearned internal inquisitiveness. As a result, the good preschool teacher will utilize this facet of an individual's personality to generate a healthy love for soccer with the aim being to channel curiosity towards the attainment of skill. With this in mind the teacher should select a confident yet questioning approach, thereby eliciting a favorable response from the young soccer player curious as to his own capacities for improvement. Not only will the desire for knowledge provide initial motivation it will also act as reinforcement because the novelty of positive achievement will encourage effort towards a child's subsequent questions as to how much he is capable of achieving, i.e. "That's a great rollover, can you do two rollovers this time?"

    However, it must be remembered that for some the ability to sustain curiosity is dependent upon the enjoyment of the activity itself. Towards this end, it is advisable to structure all coaching sessions to contain a variety of fun challenges. This will provide the young player with novel curiosity incentives within a variety of skill areas, thus maximizing the value of this source of motivation. The "HappyFeet" approach utilizes this source of motivation to the greatest degree because the dribbling and shooting focus involves children in the "neuromuscular rocket science" skills of the game. These are the skills that define the great players of the sport. As such they are the fun skills that the player is most curious about and interested in. Deceptive dribbling and shooting are the two best skills to challenge the young child who is exploring his capacity for more complicated movement. This philosophy has an extremely diverse range of technical and tactical challenges to stimulate greater interest and curiosity as children improve. 

Social approval

    This is a purely extrinsic reward for participation tied in with the distinction, success and achievement motive. Its value must not be underestimated. The expectations of a group whether family, associates, community or society, play a forceful role throughout the lifespan of a person. Although some people are less susceptible and conforming than others, social approval is a goal pursued by the majority. In any activity selection, the type of sport and level of participation can be traced to a variety of sociocultural variables. Soccer is no exception.

    Here the teacher has an important role to play because it is more often than not her approval that is sought by the young child. If she withholds that approval then the result might be the undesired one of demotivation. If, however, she demonstrates tremendous approval of appropriate effort and performance, motivation will be elevated significantly. Extra stimulus toward participation is also provided by the social approval of the peer group. Here the teacher can play an important part by highlighting positive aspects of each child’s performance to the group. 

Influence of the Coach/Teacher Example

    In the "HappyFeet" environment the young child will learn from the teacher in much the same way as he learns from his parents. Therefore, the teacher must exhibit all the characteristics she expects from hers pupils. Many teachers with different leadership styles, with a variety of communication and tactical methods have achieved success. Much of this success will depend on the "frame of reference" from which the teacher is regarded by her pupils. This will dictate hr ability to motivate them to perform to the best of their ability and develop the right attitude towards exercise. The coach should prepare carefully, show up at class promptly in the appropriate attire, and radiate confidence. Her diction should be clear and concise and her directions, demonstrations and routine movements should be characterized by passion, enjoyment and energy. The young player is inclined to imitate the teacher, absorb her attitudes and moods. Therefore, enthusiasm and public manifestation of belief in each child are perhaps the two most important attributes of the successful preschool phys ed teacher. 

    Because of the unique way the teacher supports individual development in the "HappyFeet" curriculum, the child feels completely validated as a creative individual. Children taught in this manner are highly motivated because they realize that they are encouraged to dare greatly. Unlike more conventional and traditional coaching methods where the children are used to pursue the win, played according to their effectiveness and discouraged from taking any risks that might jeopardize the winning objective, the "HappyFeet" approach maximizes the positive impact of the teacher. This leads to elevated child enthusiasm for growth and development.

Variety in Practice

    Lethargy and boredom must be prevented at all costs as these are motivational and developmental barriers. Variety in practice will serve to stimulate interest in the class. Without doubt there is a best way to run every session. This depends greatly on a number of factors such as individual characteristics, the environment and the content chosen. The HappyFeet curriculum carefully structures class content to maximize the skill acquisition of the young player. To maximize the value of this motivational source the teacher should continue with one aspect of the class only while players are either improving, or at least maintaining standards. As soon as focus and performance wavers it is important to introduce new entertainment or skill elements to regenerate interest in the activity. 

Praise & Encouragement

    With young children motivational efficiency will be improved through liberal use of verbal reward and exhortation. The young child will react favorably to praise and positive encouragement. The "HappyFeet" curriculum is designed to provide more opportunities to praise and encourage children than conventional methods. Classes are structured for hundreds of ball touches in thirty minutes. This gives the "HappyFeet" coach much opportunity to offer each child praise for positive performance thereby elevating levels of motivation towards greater achievement.

In Appreciation of the Value of Activities

    In traditional win oriented programs children have trouble appreciating how teaching methods are benefiting them as individuals. This is because many traditional coaching methods are designed purely with winning as the objective. The "HappyFeet" approach is structured to maximize individual abilities and expand personal horizons. Consequently young children are more motivated because they sense that classes are centered on their needs as individuals. 


    This is an area with a high negative potential. Competition is not recommended in early childhood physical development. It should be gradually introduced as the young player matures. HappyFeet classes feature a ball each so that each player can maximize self-concept through creative skill acquisition. 


    This is already present to greater or lesser degrees in all young children. Great teachers remove the fears that inhibit their players from risk and experimentation in physical environments by encouraging children to experiment with new movement patterns and praising any effort regardless of outcome. Poor teachers will create an environment of fear by criticizing or punishing undesirable outcomes regardless of effort. Threatening and punishing is the quick fix, instant gratification way to get a player to "toe the line" and win games. However, this method of motivating destroys self-concept and demotivates young children. Children taught in this manner become incapable of making creative, independent decisions. They become almost totally reliant on the coach for direction. This autocratic, fear based, teaching style will result in an environment that severely curtails originality and personal growth. The consequences of fear-based motivation are inevitably negative for individual growth and development. This approach may result in short term statistical wins for the team but will be very damaging to the self-concept, personal growth and individual creative skill of the children involved. 

Springfield HappyFeet

P.O. Box 8952 
Springfield, Missouri 65801
Phone : 417-501-6019
Email : [email protected]
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