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Super Soccer Stars teaches sport without stress
Robb Stephenson first laid eyes on Bluffs Park 14 years ago as he drove down Pacific Coast Highway.
He had just arrived in California, after “packing everything in a Dodge pick-up, just me and my dog,” and moving from his hometown in the Texas panhandle.
“I saw that field and all I could think was, ‘that’s got to be an amazing place to coach,’” Stephenson said.
That thought came full circle when Stephenson began coaching for Super Soccer Stars, a youth soccer program that teaches teamwork, skills and fundamentals in a pressure-free setting. While the company is based in New York, they expanded to Southern California in 2010 and now have 80 coaches in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Stephenson laid the groundwork for their initiation into the Malibu youth sports scene. As a Malibu resident of five years, Stephenson had been coaching all across the Southland, but wished to create a reputation closer to home.
“One of the things I really wanted to do was start building a name in the community I live in,” Stephenson said. “So it was a conscious decision for us, since I lived here, to go after Malibu. I love living here and I wanted to create even more of that community feeling.”
The program set its roots in a few local preschools, like Gan Malibu and the Malibu Jewish Center, but eventually began working in conjunction with the City of Malibu to host classes and scrimmages exactly where Stephenson had once envisioned coaching; at Bluffs Park.
“Now I get to spend four hours there every Sunday,” Stephenson said. “It’s such a great community. The dynamic, the population, the gossip, the people — it’s all exactly like my little hometown in Texas, just take away the water.”
Part of what sets Super Soccer Stars apart from other youth sports programs, Stephenson said, is exactly what he would have appreciated as a young boy playing recreational soccer.
“Both my of parents are athletes, so they pushed us all to get into sports — it made it so that I didn’t get back to really loving the sport until I was in my mid 20s,” Stephenson said. “I dreaded going to try-outs, I hated new teams. But what I’ve seen this company do with the kids is really develop a love for the sport, regardless of whether you’re an outstanding player or not.”
With professionally trained coaches and teachers, Super Soccer Stars staff members focus on the nurturing aspects of the sport, according to Stephenson. Children are taught the fundamentals of soccer in a non-competitive, educational environment.
“We see a lot of kids that are hesitant at first because they’ve had a negative experience with another team or a different program, and it made sport stressful,” Stephenson said. “We’ve taken all the scary aspects out. It’ll usually take them a class or two, but it’s a joy to see them smiling and playing and having a good time because it isn’t stressful for them anymore.”
The range of classes accommodate children as young as 12 months, with the Kick and Play program, and as old as 14 years, with separate programs like the Scrimmage Series to progress with the players as they develop their skills and give them a game environment in which to play. The Malibu program currently has players up to 7 years of age, but Stephenson hopes that as the players age, the program will grow.
“No matter what type of soccer player you are or what you want to do with it, we’ve got a certain little spot for you in our program,” Stephenson said. “It’s such a small number of people who are going to make soccer their life, but it’s something that can be a part of their life. What we do is we give the kids the confidence to play no matter what the environment is.”