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Pill (in red), Knoedler (in fluorescent green), MBU Coaches, and a handful of Little Kickers on the final day of the program.
Pill (in red), Knoedler (in fluorescent green), MBU Coaches, and a handful of Little Kickers on the final day of the program.

Giving Back: Sabercats Soccer Leads Local Kids' Program

WATERTOWN, Wis. ( --- Soccer ball? Check.

Shinguards? Cleats? Water bottle? Check, check, check.

Eat breakfast, load up the car, drive to Brandt-Quirk Park, tie soccer cleats, prepare to play, look for my favorite coach, find my favorite coach, smack a high-five with my favorite coach, laugh and talk with my favorite coach and then....

Play soccer! (With my favorite coach).

Check and check.

In the fall and spring, this was the typical Saturday morning to-do list for some 60-plus eager four-to-five-year-olds who joined forces with MBU soccer players and coaches in "Little Kickers": a community soccer program in Watertown hosted by players and coaches from the Sabercats soccer programs.

For 10 Saturday mornings since September, the 9:00-10:00 a.m. time slot for these "Little Kickers" included energetic games, soccer skill instruction, and of course, plenty of fun and laughter.

Men's Soccer head coach Jeff Pill and Joshua Knoedler (Women's Soccer assistant coach) - along with a force of MBU student-athletes - wrapped up the Little Kickers program last weekend as the teams from MBU used the game they love to reach out to the community.

"I am continually impressed with how the youngsters respond to the enthusiasm and care with which our players interact with them," Pill said. "There is genuine joy seen on the kids' faces as they run across the field to greet their coaches each morning."

Pill and Knoedler capitalized on the chance for the little kids to equate soccer with pure fun, as activities like 'Sharks and Minnows', 'Dribblefest', and 'Clear the Beach' frequented an agenda which focused on fun.

And while he was at it, Pill even made the experience a dual-purpose one by using it as an evaluation point for his class, Techniques of Coaching Soccer, where enrolled MBU coaches can run a soccer session and receive feedback on their coaching skills. Pill, who serves as an instructor and curriculum writer for the United States Soccer Federation's Coaching Education Program, then implemented his expert knowledge to improve the skillsets of the MBU coaches and the on-field skills of the little ones.

But Pill sees the benefit of community outreach as paramount. "This [program] is a great way for our players to get involved with the local community and be an encouragement to players and parents," Pill remarked. "All of the parents know that the program is staffed entirely by MBU students and coaches, so it is a wonderful opportunity for the town to see that we are a vibrant part of the community."

Knoedler, who was in charge for the fall session, quickly saw the impact that the coaches made on the children. "The kids loved the coaches," Knoedler said. "Some of them acted like the coaches meant more to them than the games they were playing! The coaches did a great job building relationships with them."

Even to the casual observer, there was clearly more to these sessions than just soccer - the game was simply a means to an end.

"I think Little Kickers made a huge impact in the community," Knoedler continued. "The program gave kids from all kinds of backgrounds an opportunity to learn the game of soccer and enjoy physical activity. It also gave the college students an opportunity to give back to the community and to serve the Watertown families."

To make it a family event, Pill's wife, Shari, acted as the program administrator and was responsible for scheduling workers and sessions. Joining Pill and Knoedler on the teaching staff were David Anderson, who is the head coach of the Sabercats Women's Soccer team, Taylor Pill (assistant coach for Men's Soccer), and the following student-athletes from MBU:

Alexis Herbert Alison Hernandez   Shari Moore
Leah Ng Rachel Prigge Audrey Risma
Julie Roer Micah Shepard Casandra Taylor
Steven Thompson   Wira Wama Alyssa Wright
Bethany Wright  

Former student-athletes or non-student-athletes from MBU also contributed to the program and acted as coaches:

Bridger Buchi      Victoria Morris     Prairie Veenstra   
Heather White  Tessa White Riley Woodfin


In regards to Pill's veteran leadership and teaching ability, Knoedler remarked, "I appreciated the excellence with which the program was conducted. Coach Pill did a great job preparing the coaches and equipping them with appropriate training environments for the kids. It was an awesome overall experience!"


More about MBU Athletics: The mission of the Athletic Department of Maranatha Baptist University is to develop leadership skills in the student-athlete through skilled training, godly mentoring, and intercollegiate competition.

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