At Tiny Troops Soccer, we serve children ages 2-5. So when I began coaching at Tiny Troops, I knew I would likely be many children’s first coach. However, I didn’t fully grasp that I may be the first adult to give directions to children.
Every child responds differently to new activities and situations. Parents are often surprised that their normally outgoing and chatty toddler may become quiet, reserved, and nervous when introduced to a new activity. When it comes to getting comfortable, little ones can struggle.
One player I coached in Tiny Troops taught me how much influence they would have on these players. This player was very nervous about stepping foot on the field. After a bit of coaxing, I got him to sit with the rest of the players for instruction. However, he wouldn’t look in my direction and would turn and hide his face in the grass.
This was the first time I had seen such a nervous player in my sessions. I did my best to gently acknowledge and support him the first few weeks without directing individual attention to him. I knew that would make him clam up and withdraw from the group. Luckily, he responded well to group instruction and participated with his peers.
As the weeks went by, I chatted with his parents hoping to get him more comfortable with me. What was his favorite food or cartoon? Other players told me these things, but I needed some assistance. Having that knowledge would help me get his attention and get him excited.
Slowly but surely, he went from hiding his face in the grass to sitting comfortably and answering my questions. Then a few weeks later, he began willing to start conversations with me and tell me about his pets. Then the most precious thing, a couple of weeks later, he made a little gift just for me (a finger-painted pumpkin!) and proudly presented it when arriving at the field.
These players are learning so much more than soccer here on soccer island. They are learning how to follow someone else’s lead, stay on task and build relationships. Sometimes it is challenging but always worth it!
Parents, if you find your child feeling nervous or unsure, please allow us as coaches to build those relationships. Getting comfortable on the field can be hard, but we promise it will be worth it!
Sarah Steighner is the Director of Operations for Tiny Troops Soccer. Sarah began as a coach for our sister program in Japan over 7 years ago before taking on her current position. She manages scheduling, registration duties, and location contracts. Sarah has a passion for youth sports and giving back to the military community.