Soccer starts at home.

That’s the message the world-renowned youth soccer trainer Tom Byer conveyed to a crowd of more than 100 leaders of the Houston youth soccer community Tuesday evening at BBVA Compass Stadium. Byer, who is based in Japan, is in Houston as part of a nationwide tour to spread his paradigm-shifting methodology.

The connection between Byer and the Dynamo originally came through club legend Brian Ching, who read Byer’s book and reached out via Twitter before connecting him with the Dynamo Academy Director Paul Holocher. From there, Holocher and Byer began brainstorming potential opportunities between the club and the instructor that ultimately resulted in a pair of “Ignition Events” this week in Houston.

At its core, the Soccer Starts at Home mindset emphasizes two things: the importance of getting children comfortable with having the ball at their feet as soon as possible, and the vital role that parents play in early childhood development.

“It depends on the age, but what we’re doing is to basically introduce a ball – a small ball, because you want a small ball for a small foot – inside the home because the home is a very safe and protective environment away from ridicule,” Byer said. “The interaction between the child and the parent is what’s paramount because that child’s need for that parental approval is what really kind of sets the kid up for deep learning. It’s very simple, the things that we’re showing parents, and fostering a stronger relationship and more activity between parents and children in hopes also that they understand the game more from a fundamental level.”

Next up on Byer’s agenda for his Houston visit is a public Ignition Event at Houston Sports Park on Thursday evening. While the free event is geared toward parents of children aged 2-6, all parents – and their kids – are welcome. Byer will provide an overview of the Soccer Starts at Home program and demonstrate some of the basic skills and drills that parents can teach their children.

The benefits gained by learning those soccer-specific skills reach far beyond the game itself, though, according to Byer, and his belief has been reinforced by his interactions with many of the game’s most successful stars.

“I did an interview recently with Heather O’Reilly, a World Cup champion, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Heather had noted that when she crossed over that line, when she went to her first practice, she remembers how confident she was, she remembers how much more at-ease she was around kids she had never met,” he said. “That’s very important because it’s a bit scary for a child to just join a new team and go out and try to play a sport that they have no basic building blocks for, so it’s just a win-win all the way around for a child to have that first good experience from day one.”

If you’re a fan of the beautiful game, the parent of young kids, a youth soccer coach or just interested in learning more about how Houston can continue to grow as a soccer community, head to Houston Sports Park on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. and join Tom Byer and learn more about how Soccer starts at home and the benefits that it can deliver for our children.

“It’s using soccer in a very positive way to build better people: valuable life skills, socializing, communicating, that camaraderie,” Byer concluded. “Sports is a wonderful way to teach kids just to be good human beings.”