Beloved Coach Teaches One-Of-A-Kind Soccer Program At C.H. Booth Library
Overseeing 15 energetic toddlers kicking soccer balls indoors may not be for the faint of heart, but Antonio "Coach Tony" Viscuso handles it with ease each week during his Soccer Skills and Drills program at the C.H. Booth Library.
Mr Viscuso has lived in Newtown for seven years with his wife Kimberly and his two young boys Matteo, 5, and Maxwell, 2½.
Over the last two years, the one-of-a-kind soccer program he developed has gained such popularity among the community that there is a waiting list for each class. His ability to impact so many children's lives all began with a simple idea to give back to the library that he loves.
"I was a stay-at-home dad for four or five years, and with any stay-at-home parent you have to find things to do with your kids," Mr Viscuso said. "One of the things that we did, is that we'd always go to the library for story time."
He began visiting the C.H. Booth Library for its Mother Goose program when his oldest son Matteo was just 6 months old. As the months and years went by, the library became like a second home to his children; and he found they really cherished the time there with library members Alana Bennison, Mimi Morin, and Nora Reilly.
"My two sons basically grew up on story time and with Ms Lana, Ms Mimi, and Ms Nora. They are like family to them," he said.
Having enjoyed the reading program so much, Mr Viscuso wanted to find a way to volunteer and contribute his expertise to the library.
Not only is he the head coach for the Masuk High School boys' soccer team, but Mr Viscuso also has experience instructing soccer for the Monroe Parks & Rec and has his own coaching company called AV Soccer Academy for players looking to improve their skills.
"I've been teaching at the high level for 16 years. I coach regional teams, travel programs, and club programs," he explained.
So, when Mr Viscuso approached Children's Librarian Alana Bennison about the possibility of having an indoor soccer program, she was interested - but a bit skeptical. After he assured her that no damage would be done to the art displayed in the library's Meeting Room, Ms Bennison agreed to creating the class.
"I knew learning to play a sport helps develop gross motor and listening skills," Ms Bennison said. "Team sports teaches cooperation, patience, discipline, and self-awareness. It builds confidence and a sense of pride when a skill is mastered."
Upon witnessing Mr Viscuso lead the children in class, Ms Bennison said, "Tony's program has done all of those things and more for the children who participated in the many programs he coached at the library. I can't thank Tony enough for his dedication to bringing soccer to our youngest library users."
Soccer Skills and Drills
Now two years into the soccer program, Mr Viscuso says he still looks forward to every Tuesday at 4 pm to teach Soccer Skills and Drills at the library and bring his two boys along with him.
"I love being there," he said. "The kids that had started when they were basically just starting to walk are kids that have now been there for two years, and to see their development is incredible. It's really something that is special to me and something I want to keep doing."
Four-year-old Leighton Lischuk is one of Mr Viscuso's students who has been with the program since the beginning.
"He's come a long way from last year," Leighton's nanny Doris Goane said about the skills he has learned from class. "And Tony is wonderful. I think the program is amazing."
When asked if Coach Tony is a good teacher, Leighton jumped up and down in delight repeating "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
Three-year-old Ike McGrath also attends Mr Viscuso's Soccer Skills and Drills program each week. His mother, Nora McGrath, found out about the program through the library's website and started bringing him this year.
Besides kicking the soccer ball around, Ike says his favorite part of class is getting to do the special "airplane" move.
Mr Viscuso explained that he uses age-appropriate sensory words that the children understand to help incorporate specific soccer techniques into the class. "Airplane" represents trapping the ball and the children hold up their arms to the side - like airplane wings - for balance.
Children not only get the opportunity to learn from Mr Viscuso, but also from the program's volunteer mentors from Newtown and Monroe. They help assist the students during the activities and read an educational book about soccer at the end of class.
The best part of teaching the program, Mr Viscuso says, is hands down hearing the children exclaim, "I can do it!" when they achieve something they could not have done before.
"That, at the end of the day, is worth more than any kind of payment or trophy. When you hear something like that from a kid that is enjoying your program, learning something, and showing that they can believe in themselves and do it - that's something I want them to be able to take away from [the class]."
As a former stay-at-home dad, he also enjoys that his program can benefit both the children who attend and the other stay-at-home parents, grandparents, and nannies who can find a fun, free place to bring the children to.
To sign-up for the Soccer Skills and Drills program at the C.H. Booth Library, taught by Coach Tony, visit chboothlibrary.org. Registration is required, and all equipment is provided.