Founded in 2004 by a group of childhood friends who grew up to play collegiate and professional soccer, DirectKix Soccer Productions aims to share their love of the game with a new generation. Youth soccer clinics cover not just technical lessons and game strategy but how to see soccer as a celebration of life. Grown-ups can also get in on the fun by signing up for the program's adult league, which sets teams against each other over a 10-week season, about the time it takes to forget all the rules of American football.
Though the Los Angeles Blues are firmly attached to California, they celebrated their inaugural season like any newlyweds would: they headed to the Caribbean. In the team's first official weekend of play, it earned back-to-back wins over Sevilla Puerto Rico and Antigua Barracuda on their home turfs. Winning became a theme for the Blues that season, as they surged to the playoffs in the nascent USL Pro League. Since those early triumphs, the Blues have expanded beyond play in the USL Pro, taking on teams from other leagues during the annual U.S. Open Cup, participating in international exhibitions, and constantly fending off squirrels trying to steal the game balls for their acorn hoards.
At Goals Soccer Centers, athletes of all ages try their hand—or rather foot—at the world’s most popular sport during league and open play. Eleven artificial-turf fields accommodate five-a-side teams for fast-paced outdoor games. Rebound walls enclose pitches, inviting players to bang balls off them for tricky passing, and netting keeps all spherical objects from flying out of bounds. In between matches, teammates refuel at the onsite restaurant or relax in a lounge equipped with TV and free WiFi. Complete with showers, tidy locker rooms also give footballers ample space to dress and clean up before and after contests.
When Joan Barnes founded Gymboree Play & Music in 1976, she envisioned a facility where parents and children could play together in a safe and age-appropriate environment. In the following decades, Gymboree Play & Music spread to more than 30 countries across the globe, helping youngsters from infants to 5 years old develop cognitive, physical, and social skills. The company's instructors lead classes such as Play & Learn, its flagship course, in which parents and kids move through a seven-level program filled with storytelling, play activities, and debates on the merits of sandwich crust. Talented staffers also prep youngsters for school and foster development in areas such as music, art, and sports. Throughout all classes, they make use of custom play equipment designed by acclaimed playground designer and seesaw-tamer Jay Beck.
As the morning begins, a row of toddlers takes turns tumbling feet over head while their parents guide them into the correct movement. Later, school-age kids sit in a circle, legs stretched before them as they try to touch their toes. At My Gym, the trained staff imbues kids aged six weeks to nine years with life skills through music, physical activities, and games. Many classes focus on incorporating exercises with social and developmental skills. Additionally, gymnastics training and the development of sports skills teach tykes discipline in a noncompetitive atmosphere. All classes take place in a well-padded room, led by staff trained in child development and fluent in Muppet. Birthday parties give the special boy or girl and their entourage private access to the entire facility, games, and puppets.
Throughout Los Angeles, children as young as 2 are honing coordination, social skills, and other life essentials in Super Soccer Stars LA's kid-friendly camps. Each age-specific session is based on curricula designed by both soccer experts and early childhood and behavioral specialists in order to grant little ones with a fun and well-rounded experience in each drill they run and game they play. From dribbling and passing to more general principles such as teamwork, campers will learn skills that will help them succeed beyond the soccer field in the classroom, on the playground, and in the ball-kicking portion of state standardized tests. At the end of each camp day, children show off their new abilities by competing in a mini World Cup.