Prior to founding Little Kickers, the children’s football coaching franchise, Christine Stanschus had a high-flying career in the City, latterly working as European head of collateral marketing for J. P. Morgan. Suffice to say, the nature of the role meant that family life took a backseat, something that eventually compelled Stanschus to step away from the corporate world. “I ended up being away more than I was at home so I decided I needed to find something else,” she says.”
It also meant she could spend some quality time with her young son Lukas, who was football mad. “He just loved football,” Stanschus says. “Every day, I would drive him down to Wandsworth Common and I’d have to stand in goal while he’d kick balls at me.””
But, as much as she enjoyed her kickabouts with Lukas, Stanschus thought he would benefit from some proper football coaching. “It was really unusual for my generation of women to play football,” she says. “I just thought there must be other people who are better qualified to teach him football than me.””
A chance encounter at the park solved the problem. “I bumped into a guy who was there playing football with his son,” says Stanschus. “I had a chat with him about whether he would be interested in running some classes for Lukas and some of his friends.” He agreed and, when parents started flocking to the class with their children, Stanschus realised that there might be an opportunity to take the idea one step further.
Along with two friends (who she has since bought out) Stanschus was soon running a number of classes across London, which were targeted at children aged from 18 months up to seven years. As she explains, parents were less attracted by the prospect of turning their toddler into the next Lionel Messi and more by the opportunity of some meaningful exercise. “The main objective was to give kids a passionate introduction to sport,” says Stanschus.”
And, while Little Kickers’ first trainer may have had a bit of football nous about him, this isn’t an essential trait for every Little Kickers coach. “We look for people who relate well to kids, love spending time with them and enjoy physical activity,” says Stanschus. “We’ve developed a comprehensive training programme that can bring even the most inexperienced footballer to a level where they’re able to deliver our programme very competently.”