John Leal has a business degree and has extensive studies in kinesiology. But his real passion since childhood has always been sport.
So when the 26-year-old Vista native was fired from his unsatisfying office job a few years ago, he figured it was time to follow his heart. Today, Leal is the owner of Pley Sports, a sports education company created a year ago for all kindergartens and primary schools.
Five days a week, Leal and his employees teach the basics of football and T-ball to children ages 3 and up at a Montessori school in Oceanside, as well as two Oceanside parks. So far, nearly 200 children have completed the Pley Sports program.
What: Sports training programs for children in soccer, t-ball and physical education
Where: Lake Park, Melba Bishop Park and Montessori School of Oceanside
Cost: $ 75 to $ 100 per six-week session
In line: pley-sports.com
The company name is not misspelled. Pley is an acronym for Leal’s teaching components on Physical Literacy, Engagement and Youth.
Physical literacy is an educational concept that helps young children master basic motor skills that will make them more confident and comfortable in their environment and better able to participate in a wide variety of sports.
âPhysical literacy is like reading literacy or math literacy. It teaches you to understand the basic concepts which you can then apply in different ways, âsaid Leal.
Although Leal didn’t have any formal training in physical literacy as a boy, he learned on the job – playing baseball, soccer, basketball and soccer are his middle and high school years. . Then he played baseball for four years at the Lutheran University of California at Thousand Oaks.
While sports were Leal’s first love, organizing sports activities with his friends and working with children followed closely behind. In high school he worked in after school programs in Vista. After college, he helped coach baseball at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside and worked as an athletic coordinator for a YMCA club in Oceanside.
While he loved working at the Y, he dreamed of creating a youth program that reflected his own ideas. And he wanted to become a mentor to young athletes the same way his coaches were to him growing up.
Last summer, he launched his business marketing the after-school program to area schools. Since then he has contracted with the City of Oceanside to offer seasonal classes at two city parks. It also has a partnership with the Montessori School of Oceanside to teach multisport skills year round. Programs start at $ 75 per six-week session.
This fall, it will add a preschool program at Del Rio Elementary School in Oceanside as well as an after-school flag football and soccer program at the Palmquist Preparatory Academy in Oceanside. Next year he will expand his Montessori program to general physical education.
During a basic football practice Monday afternoon in Lake Park, Leal energetically coached four toddlers through a busy 55-minute course that involved zigzag runs through orange pylons, jumps over ankle-high hurdles, dribble miniature soccer balls across the field and shoot goals.
Leal’s focus and upbeat demeanor never wavered, even when the easily distracted boys lay face down on the ground, started to randomly cry, or repeatedly ran to their parents for unscheduled water breaks. At the end of each class, students receive a sticker, and at the end of each session, their parents receive a stack of action photos taken by Leal’s girlfriend, Emma Hopp, a professional photographer.
âThe little ones are so much fun to work with, even though it can be exhausting,â he said. “It’s really important for me to be a positive role model for these kids, just like my coaches were for me.”
Oceanside resident Jennifer Carr said she first met Leal two years ago when her son AJ, now 3.5 years old, started participating in YMCA activities. As an elementary school teacher, Carr said she was impressed with Leal’s behavior management skills.
âWe followed Coach John from the YMCA because he’s so great with kids in my son’s age group,â Carr said. âThey have a shorter attention span at this age and can be much more difficult. He does a good job of motivating them and using positive reinforcement with them.
Leal said his long-term goal is to develop a full-service after-school program that can be offered on North County campuses. The program would integrate sports practices into traditional extracurricular activities, homework, snacks and extracurricular activities.
âMy goal is to combine everything into one to help parents who are not able to get their kids to come and go to training and make it accessible to everyone,â he said.