Picture this: I’m five years old and I have a new soccer uniform – including new cleats and shin guards. I even have a new soccer ball! I’ve been talking about soccer practice all week. Practice day comes and I’m geared up ready to go. My Dad drives me to the field and we park. Immediately fear consumes my little body. Dad opens the van door and says, “Ok let’s go!” And I respond with, “No, I changed my mind. Let’s go home.” After lots of coaxing from my dad, I’m still not getting out of the car. So my determined Dad resorts to “peeling” me (his descriptive choice of words) from the car. As he recalls, I was like Spiderman, sticking to any surface I could to stay in the car. After Dad ultimately wins our wrestle, we get to the field and I will not leave my Dad’s side.
For most of that first practice, we sat. My Dad would calmly describe what was happening on the field, “Oh did you see Hannah just scored a goal? Wow, that game looks so fun! They are running; you love to run!” And there I sat, silently watching.
Finally, after lots of observing, I cautiously took to the field. I quickly fell in love with soccer and went on to play for many years. My parents would say, “We had to peel you out of the car to get on the field, but then we couldn’t peel you off the field!” Fast forward many years later, and I am now the Director of Coaching at Tiny Troops Soccer, with a degree in Physical Education and Coaching, having played on many different sports teams. All thanks to my patient Dad who didn’t give up on me during that first practice.
Does this story sound familiar to any of you? You sign your little one up for soccer and they seem so excited but then come to the first practice and they refuse to participate, or even cry? Well, guess what- that is normal! There are so many new things for these little ones to take in! While some new players may jump right in without a problem, many need some time to get comfortable before jumping in.
Maybe try my Dad’s approach, sit on the sideline of the field with your little one and explain to them what’s happening. Then once they feel more comfortable you, and our awesome coaches can help ease them into participating. Whatever you do, don’t give up after one practice! Who knows, maybe they have a long future of sports and physical activity ahead of them!
Annie Burton is the Director of Coaching for Tiny Troops Soccer. She began as a coach at our Fort Campbell location before transitioning into her current position. Annie has a passion for youth soccer and coaching, and uses it to help train our coaches, both new and experienced.