With freestyle football I want to get kids moving

To keep a ball high while doing tricks with it: freestyle football is not easy. Sport Studies student Mike van de Streek teaches children with his company StreetSkills that this is possible after all. Ánd healthier than gaming.

It could take years before you have mastered complicated tricks. “But”, says Mike, “The sport itself is very accessible. If you have a ball, you can start right away. You don’t need a team. You can just walk outside, alone or with a friend, and start practicing. That’s what I want to show children. That it is fun and easy to be outside, away from the Playstation.”

Tricks on Instagram

To achieve this, Mike started StreetSkills during the corona pandemic. “I suddenly had a lot of time to spare. I was already doing freestyle football, but put more time in it now. By filming my tricks and putting them on Instagram I came in contact with my former football coach. He liked what I did and together we decided to start this company.”

“Together with other freestyle footballers, I now travel through the Netherlands to get children more excited. We go by football clubs, schools and campsites. Through performances we show our tricks. And in the clinics the children get to freestyle themselves.”

Top-class entrepreneur

Mike has big plans for StreetSkills. “I am in the process of setting up a ‘freestyle academy’, so children will be able to follow classes more often. Eventually I want to become the biggest freestyle-organization in the Netherlands. This is how I can make freestyle football as big as possible, there’s still so much growth in this sport.” 

Starting his business went so well, Mike won in 2021 the ‘Topondernemersbokaal’ (student entrepreneurship election) of the Centre for entrepreneurship at Windesheim. The prize is for students who, in addition to their studies, also have their own company. Mike won a goblet and 500 euros to invest in his company. “I can put that to good use for the academy. I am very happy with my prize and the reason they chose me. Especially the fact that StreetSkills does something for society made me win. I’m not just doing this to make money, I really want to mean something to children.”

Making friends

According to Mike, freestyling is not only fun, it’s healthy too. “A lot of children stay inside. The temptation to play games all day is huge. The pandemic doesn’t help either of course, everything is closed. Exercising is extremely healthy for children. And it helps them make connections with others. For me, my sports were the place where I met all my friends. And that is still the case. Sports bring people together.”

Aside from that, freestyle football is an easy and accessible way to get moving, says Mike. “Children don’t want anything other than having fun and do whatever they want. This sport is perfect for that. In normal football you have to do what the coach says. Of course, you plan in a team. But with freestyle you can pick and choose your own tricks. You can even get creative and develop your own tricks. That’s what the kids find fantastic. Especially if they watch our show afterwards. They think: wow, this is cool. I want to learn more of this.”

A lot to learn

Mike thinks that the children being eager to learn is fantastic. “I teach children from different ages. With the younger children there’s more playful learning, but if they are between 10 and 16 years old they can learn a lot in a short time. These kids will sooner start practicing at home. And they want to get good at it. Children get the gist of things quickly, especially when they are motivated. They are also very pure. If they don’t like something, they just say so. As a result, I can easily adapt to the group. That makes working with kids super fun.”

Speed and technique

Even though children love to learn, freestyle football is not easy. “You need a lot of commitment, and the difficult thing is that you won’t see results immediately. What I often teach children is the ‘around the world’ trick. You hold you foot high and touch the ball in such a way that you circle around the ball. I can do that trick three times in one movement, without the ball hitting the ground. But I still find it difficult. I can’t show the trick 1-2-3, I still practice for this. I have been working on it for a few years now.”

“However, in the beginning children don’t have to be busy with complicated tricks. First, they practice with the basics. With their speed and technique. Only after that, you will start developing. And not everyone has to and want to become world champion, of course. In any case, I think it’s important to teach children that if they really want something, they can achieve it.”

Text: Silke Polhuijs
Photo: Jasper van Overbeek

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