The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News

KICKZ for kids

Web posted on May 11, 2012

On Wednesday afternoon, the latest group of KICKZ participants finished up their 16-week program at the sports dome behind Centennial.

KICKZ is an afterschool soccer program arranged by Onward Willow, for boys and girls in Grade 2 or older, who live in the Willow Road area of Guelph. The program has been running for four years now. The participants are divided up into two groups, based by age - the younger group was playing today.

The Guelph Police Service, Guelph Soccer, the City of Guelph, and Winmar Restorations are all actively involved with the KICKZ program. Several GPS officers come out to play with the kids, including Sergeant Doug Pflug, Deputy Chief Jeff De Ruyter, and the coach himself, Staff Sergeant Patrick Milligan. There are other regular volunteer helpers, some from the Conestoga College police program, even students who have graduated from the KICKZ program come back to help.

A pre-game warm-up is important before playing!

Watching the Mighty Willows in action, it's easy to see why the program is so popular. Today, there were 31 kids and 11 older kids & adults on the field. After a warm-up exercise for the kids, three games were played: the adults took on half of the kids, then the other half, then all of the kids at once. It was a scene of gleeful chaos on the field - sure they followed the rules, but they weren't worried about form or style. In the end, the score was 2-2 and everyone was a winner.

It's hard to keep up with kids having fun.

At the end of a game, you always shake the other team's hands!

It is interesting to see how involved GPS officers are with this program. "The neighbourhood kids get a great opportunity to meet police officers on the soccer field, without our uniforms," explained Sergeant Doug Pflug. "Later on, if they see us in uniform, they don't get defensive or scared, they wave and say 'Hi Officer Doug!'." In general, many officers participate in sports now, and many came to police work after playing sports in school. "It's the aspect of leadership and teamwork we bring forward from our past experiences to what we do as police officers," says Pflug. "We want to encourage all of the kids to learn to work as part of a team, to learn how to be leaders - and programs like this are great ways to do just that." The kids also get to see examples of adults treating each other - and kids - with respect and dignity. Besides, who wouldn't want a chance to score on the city's Deputy Police Chief, who is an avid and experienced soccer goalie?

At the 'graduation' ceremony, all of the participants were given nifty flexible water bottles and congratulated by the Police Chief and Deputy Chief.

Thank-you certificates were presented to Guelph Soccer, the Guelph Police Service, and Coach Patrick by Onward Willow, on behalf of all the kids in the program, for their tireless efforts. It was also announced that some of the Mighty Willows will have an opportunity to go to soccer camp this summer!

(l-r) John Alexander (Executive Director of Guelph Soccer), Police Chief Bryan Larkin, Staff Sergeant Patrick Milligan (aka Coach Pat), Deputy Chief Jeff De Ruyter

Onward Willow - Better Beginnings, Better Futures is a non-profit charitable organization providing supports to enrich the quality of life for the residents of the Willow Road area of Guelph. Contact them for more information on the KICKZ Soccer Program.
Guelph Soccer website