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Free Play


"What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? They play enthusiastically throughout their lives."

~ Stuart Brown, Institute of Play

Free Play

Free Play is kid driven unstructured play.  While this sounds idle and simple, it's not.  JOTP has created a unique environment, grooved and fine tuned by the kids and leaders over time to really bring back the lost language of unstructured play as the best learning environment. Best practice of small sided, equalized games, different balls and different surfaces create a fun involved climate for accelerated learning.   Must be seen to be believed.  We encourage JOTP kids to put in lots of hours of this type of play and offer times at the center for kids to meet and engage.

Feel free to drop off kids, or hang out at the center during FP times.  There is always games on TV and complimentary WiFi.  If you have game get involved.  Kids not in the JOTP program need a signed waiver. 

Thank you for your support

As many as possible, as long as possible in the best environment possible.  Eight years ago JOTP set out to become the worls  leader in the understanding and delivery of Free Play.  Over that time we have provided over 10,000 hours of unstructured, no cost, play for kids along the way for kids of all ages, shaping the ethic and culture in a very positive way for thousands of kids and families.  We need your help to continue to innovate and explore the power of learning.  Your donation will support the continued smiles, friendships and competencies of JOTP Free Play.

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JOTP St. Paul Free Play Hours

890 Cromwell St. Paul

Updated:  6/13/2018


Monday -   12:00pm-3:00pm    

Tuesday -      12:00pm - 3:00 pm 

Wednesday -  12:00 pm - 3:00 pm 

Thursday -     12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Friday-         12:00pm-3:00pm



Updated: 1/11/2018


JOTP Address

JOTP is located in the SSA (South St. Anthony Recreation Center) at 890 Cromwell Ave, St. Paul, MN 55114.  Nearest intersection is Hwy 280 and University Avenue.

JOTP WEST - Calvin Chrisitan School

Updated: 6/13/2018

Monday -   12:00pm-3:00pm    

Tuesday -      12:00pm - 3:00 pm 

Wednesday -  12:00 pm - 3:00 pm 

Thursday -     12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Friday-         12:00pm-3:00pm





Healthy kids, Healthy sport experince, Lifelong love of the game

Joy of the People is introducing PLAY 365, an initiative to encourage healthy lyfestyle.  JOTP will offer soccer opportunities 365 days this year and 1000 hours of available free play time.  

Come enjoy the amazing soccer experienced at Joy of the People. But no matter what, Play Everyday!

"My position is this: street soccer is the most natural educational system that can be found."
--Rinus Michels

The movement is growing

Read about what they are saying about player development.  While others are out there doing more of the same--we have decided to change things.  We work harder to get it right.  We are building passion, and joy through innovative ways.  We are following best practice of deliberate practice balanced with free play.  Kids touch the ball more, solve more problems and with focused training aimed at technical excellence, kids are defining a new level of skill.

Youth soccer development is only going to get better when someone, somehow, provides the right kid, with the right environment, training, and passion needed to give the U.S its first ever world class player.  When this happens, people will start asking, how was this done, how come no player like that is coming from my neck of the woods etc. Its a painful process, but someone will get it right, hopefully soon.

--from an anonymous comment to the Boston Globe article Hog the Ball, Kid

From Boston Globe 

NY Times on Ajax

A star is made


Over four years, between the age of 12 and 16, a French boy attending an academy receives 2304 hours of training, twice as much as in England. But it’s not just more quantity, there’s quality too. “It was Gerard Houllier’s idea to introduce what is known as ‘preformation’ training,” says Andy Roxburgh. “The idea was that between the ages of 13 and 16 most of the coaching should concentrate on individual work and developing technique. Gerard believed that if a player got to the age of 16 and his technique wasn’t up to scratch there was no way of ever catching up.”

Of course, academies aren’t the only place to play football – Johan Cruyff and George Best didn’t learnt in an academy, they learnt on the street – but cultural changes in Europe have seen street football decline for 20 years. “Marcello Lippi is always bemoaning that kids are playing far less street football today,” says Roxburgh. “In central and northern Europe we really need to try and recreate an environment where there is more spontaneity and freedom of expression with a football. They play a lot of futsal in Spain and Portugal, which is what the Brazilians do, and it’s great for the grass roots, but it’s not so big in Europe. In the past, there were plenty of kids playing in the street so there were plenty of lads to choose from. Now, though, there have to be structures in place in order to find the best players.”
  - August, 2007


The best way to learn soccer, or any sport for that matter, is through free play. The best players from around the world have inspired us through skills learned on their neighborhood courts. Like pond hockey or street basketball, true skill and creativity are born in that unstructured time.

Why, with all the options in soccer programming should kids spend time at free play?

  •  It's healthy, it allows you to enjoy the game for life, studies have shown that kids without a foundation of free play hours kids are more likely to suffer burn out. Building the hours of Joy, kids with lots of pick up time were better able to cope with the sometimes more difficult Deliberate Practice required later. 
  • It's safer, because kids set the level and standards of the game, the movements are more wide ranging building movement and skill literacy. A more balanced physical development takes place with less chance of repetitive stress. The problem is not too much soccer, it's too much pressurized soccer.
  •  It is the best developer, kids at JOTP will touch the ball more, make more mistakes, learn, have more fun, and attain the appropriate skill levels faster then their traditional travel soccer colleagues not because they are special or gifted, simply because of a better method.
  • It's more fun.  Have a great coach train kids and they are exhausted in 75 minutes, traditionally free play has no time limit., kids play until dark because they enjoy it more.  This gives them still more touches and builds motivation internally.  Of course kids benefit from coaching, at JOTP we provide age appropriate challenges and then send kids out to play.  A much greater amount of a player's overall time is spent in free play, especially when they are young.
  • It's free. This year JOTP  will offer 1000 hours of free play and many surfaces and courts, including street, grass, dirt and futsal.  As always  open to players of all ages and levels.


  • Soccer's most inspirational players credit free play as the key to their skills;
  • Studies show with more free play there is less chance of burnout;
  • Builds self respect. Builds REAL leadership skills;
  • Without it there is no elite development;
  • You can play for hours;
  • Builds long ranging love of the game;
  • It's fun, healthy, builds happiness; and
  • Joy!

Neerland & Oyaas ONLINE Volume 16, Issue 17 Oct 30, 2009

Hooray for Free Play
A couple of prominent members of the Twin Cities’ soccer scene are making a play that may completely change how Minnesotans view and participate in the world’s most popular sport. Ted Kroeten and Victor Kasanezky have had long and impressive careers as players and coaches whose passion for the sport is palpable when you meet them. They are launching a club—really, a concept—called Joy of the People. Hoping to create a unifying force that attracts soccer lovers from all ages and backgrounds to promote the simple concept of free play that they feel is missing in America. That’s right; simple pick-up games where players of all ages can hone their skills and play just for the sheer fun of it. They have recently launched an important collaboration with the St. Paul Park and Recreation system, which is offering its South St. Anthony Rec Center and Park for their use. The idea is to create a branded clubhouse and play fields and provide youngsters with a safe and secure place to play and learn. We think they are on to something exciting and hope that the idea of free play spreads like wildfire across all sports and parents can quit slicing oranges and driving to Menomonee for 90 minutes of little Johnny’s or Annie’s competitions. If you are interested in helping launch this exciting effort, contact Ted at Joyofthepeople.org

Foundation of Joy

Look at soccer in the US.  Imagine a pyramid with competition being the highest level of soccer and team practices being the second level, generally this is the limit to kid's experience today.  

JOTP focuses on the "lost foundation," a third layer, of free play and individual skills mastery (deliberate practice). This foundation, is what kids are best at.  It is the the learning and socializing on the neighborhood parks in free play. And, is also perfecting that free throw all by yourself until you get it right.  If you play sports, this time spent is the best of your lives. Time and time again great players site these foundational hours as their favorite, and the key to their creative development.  We call this the "Foundation of Joy."

This foundation should be the first priority.  Without this foundation of joy, kids miss out on the most important hours of  skill development, creative skills, enjoyment and learning. Yet in the US this foundation is given almost no attention.

We focus on this foundational level of  development.  That's it.  At JOTP  kids are encouraged to participate in free play each week, we create inviting, exciting  and imaginative environments, with spaces and core values to respect the game and each other.  And it's always free, no charge, safe monitored setting.  Our goal is to set aside 1000 hours a year to allow kids to experiment and grow. 

Free play alone does not develop players, recent studies on expertise point to deliberate practice, a vastly different thing then you are likely to find at your typical soccer club. It's sometimes fun, sometimes hard work, all the time challenging and improving performance. 

We carefully balance and benchmark  kids teaching the right things at the right time in the correct doses, U10's spend much greater time at free play as they build social and technical strengths, they participate in very little DP, while a U18 may have the balance of their training focused in Deliberate Practice and performance improvement.

Recent studies using hockey have shown that those who participated in the most free play (pond hockey) as kids were able to handle the increasing amounts of Deliberate Practice as they became young adults. These players were least likely to burnout, more likely to continue playing and enjoy the game for life.

Just a few of our growing skill mastery department (5 years from now everyone will train like this)

  • -Electronic training/testing equipment to give the player immediate feedback on physical and technical skills. Our Just Jump and Run system is what is used in NFL combines.  It is a fun and accurate way to track key areas of improvement.
  • -Tennis Ball Machine.  The problem, how do we get better at ball striking when were stuck indoors? How do we  maximize repetitions of ball control? How do we make it fun, exciting and beneficial?   With the ingenious use of tennis ball machine we not only solved the problem, we set a new standard.  Want to have a blast hitting 90 repetitions a minute?   If a player can control a tennis ball softy, or hit it dead solid perfect, a soccer ball poses little difficulty.  We are producing the next generation of Ball strikers, finishers and ball control magicians.  The results are amazing!  You have never seen anything like this...but you will 5 years from now.Until then it's only here.
  • -Creative skill Development.  This is our signature.  We have been developing the creative ball handlers for 20 years.  Soccer at the highest levels is an Artistic sport.  We teach it that way.  

Sign up for one of our programs today and start building the Foundation of Joy.

The building of JOTP

"There is about 12 or so 'street ballers' for Minnesota who don't play our style Futsal"

12 JOTPers set off for Futsal Region 2 ID program last weekend.  Held at the redoubtable New Horizon fieldhouse, and run by national team coaches to Identify and track top Futsal players from around the country, the ID program featured 2 age group training sessions and 3 games over two days. 

There were kids there from around the midwest, many of them part of the ever growing Sporting KC midwest super club, a club commited to futsal.  Many of the complex patterns over the first day those kids had been training for years.

 The comment was made by one of the coaches after the first day's set of games when a kid (JOTP) running full speed and ignoring obvious passing options, spinning first one way then 360 degrees in the other causing two defenders to fall  sideways as the shot was already rocketed off the top bar and behind the still hands forward goalie, crouching like he had seen a ghost. "...they don't play our style of futsal." 

In a now famous saying on the downfalls of being drilled:

"I guess the academies have yet to design those drills."

The weekend was a great success for all who went, learning and meeting other coaches and players, learning complex futsal rotations and seeing the standards set by the National Team Coaches.  They all are intent on bringing back and sharing what they have learned. At the end they came around, National Team Coach Keith Tozar commenting after the picture, "looks like Futsal is alive and well in Minnesota."


Free Play

Always no cost.  Play soccer in a monitored, safe enviroment.  Games may be played on grass, street courts, futsal etc. Bring indoor shoes.  No cleats in the gym. Come ready to have fun!  JOTP also has amazing skill programming. MORE>>>