Jonathan Woolsey, Director of Little Kickers Canada Bay/Canterbury, emigrated from the UK 20 years ago and has lived in the Inner West ever since, with his wife and two young boys. Having been a Personal Trainer in both London and Sydney, Jonathan was so impressed with the Little Kickers class that his youngest child attended a few years ago, he decided to broaden his skills and applied for a coaching role!
Read on to get to know more about Jonathan and find out how Little Kickers helps children not just physically but on a social level too.
Tell us a little about yourself
I grew up in the UK, just South of London but I moved to Sydney in 2000 – just before the Olympic Games – after travelling the world. My wife and I lived in Newtown initially, but as our family grew, we wanted more space and moved to Petersham.
I have always had a passion for health and fitness and worked as a Personal Trainer in both London and Sydney, specialising in corporate fitness and sports injury rehab.
For fun, I take my small sailing boat out at Rodd Point every Saturday and participate in the club racing there – it’s a great feeling being out on the open water and I love competing against the other boats.
I also have two energetic boys; one in high school, the other in primary and you will often see me at Café Bones in Leichhardt walking our two Dachshund dogs.
Why did you decide to have your own Little Kickers franchise?
We first discovered Little Kickers when my youngest son was 3.5 years old, and was invited by a friend to join a Little Kickers class. After seeing him run around and having so much fun during the first class, I remember being struck at what a fantastic way this was to introduce sport at an early age. Having personally always coached adults, and being up for a challenge, I decided to apply for a coaching position.
I had a chat to the director of the area and was hired as an assistant coach, and from that moment, I developed the goal to be my own boss one day. Fast-forward a few years, and the chance to buy the Canada Bay/Canterbury franchise came up – and I jumped at the opportunity!
What programs do you offer?
Our program contains four main classes:
Aside from the health benefits of keeping kids active what other benefits are there for getting young children involved in sport at an early age?
One of the key benefits of all of our classes is the social aspect. Children attend classes on a weekly basis, this helps them to develop familiarity, build friendships and interact with different people. This also really helps them to increase their confidence, so when they reach Kindy, they have that experience of adjusting to new surroundings, which may help it be less overwhelming. It’s also not just about kicking a ball – we include educational elements like colour recognition and counting as part of the class.
How do you help children at Little Kickers to enjoy and play confidently?
We believe in something called ‘play not push’ – meaning that we teach football in a fun, pressure-free environment. The aim is to give children a positive introduction to sport and teamwork as a whole, not just football, by encouraging them and using positive reinforcement, imaginative play and getting down to their level. We look for coaches that have that enthusiastic, contagious energy that passes on to the children, to ensure that everyone is having fun.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s very, very rewarding! It’s wonderful to watch a child progress from their first lesson and develop their balance, agility, and coordination over the course of a program. It’s also fantastic to help children grow in confidence and make friends, all whilst developing a passion for a fit and healthy lifestyle.
What has been your proudest moment?
I have a special needs child in one of our classes, who has been diagnosed with extreme anxiety and separation disorder. Over the months that I have coached her, she has become more open and less clingy to her mother. At first she would always need to be close to mum but now she is running all over the place enjoying the games, becoming more confident and independent in class.
What has been a positive or silver lining for you from the pandemic and what has been the hardest thing?
The hardest thing during this time was not being able to coach and see those smiling faces. However, it was great to stay in contact and have the support of many of the children’s parents, whom have been with Little Kickers for some time, whilst in lockdown. I also made some online coaching videos in the early days of the lockdown to help kids remain active, when we couldn’t have in-person classes. I received great feedback on these – so that was a real silver lining. Since reopening, I’ve had huge demand for children to get back to some activity, which is brilliant.
Favourite places in the Inner West?
Cooks River while walking my dogs.
Who inspires you?
My wife Fiona, nothing stops her.
For more information please visit the Little Kickers website or the Little Kickers Canada Bay/Canterbury Facebook page.