It’s happening, the Big Day, your player’s first-ever soccer session! The excitement is infectious, and you can’t wait to see your player in their first organized sport, and your player has been talking about soccer since the day you signed them up and got them a ball.
But do our toddlers know what to expect when they get to Soccer Island? Maybe they’ve seen a big brother or sister play soccer, or perhaps they are your first/only child, and they have no clue.
Excitement and wiggles consume them on the drive to the field, but what happens when they get to Soccer Island, and it hits them? There are so many new things. Coach, the other players, cones, and equipment scattered around.
The shell shock sets in, and your player clams up. Maybe you were prepared for this. You may have already known what to expect. Maybe your toddler has done something like this before, but for MANY of our parents, this is the first time you’ve seen your player freeze up and look visibly nervous.
Based on my years on the field with Tiny Troopers, I can tell you that this is normal. Here at Tiny Troops Soccer, we know that we are often players’ first coach, teacher, or even first person to give them direction outside their immediate family.
Like all of us, they need time to adjust to their new environment. We often see parents get concerned or even frustrated when their player goes from bouncing off the walls with excitement to hiding behind mom or dad’s leg and refusing to step on Soccer Island. Parents think “soccer’s not for them,” “he’s not ready,” or maybe “we should just leave.”
I’m here to tell you, don’t give up! Give your player time to get comfortable.
I’d like to tell you a little about the average player’s progression during their first month of Soccer Island and how you can assist your player with each step.
Session 1: Your players go from excited to shy in 60 seconds, and you’re feeling nervous for them. They don’t want to join their friends on Soccer Island and won’t even look at the coach.
What do you do?: Take a seat on the edge of Soccer Island and talk with your player about all the fun activities their friends are doing. Slowly, your player will get more interested, and eventually, they will build up the confidence to join everyone on the field for this first session. It may be half the session or just the last activity of the day, but either way, it’s a win.
Session 2: Ok, your player knows what to expect now and is excited to return to Soccer Island. You’re thinking we got this; they will join in the whole time today! But when you get there, they clam up again.
What do you do now?: Repeat what you did last week. Talk with them, ask questions about what their friends are doing, and slowly your player will be drawn back to soccer island and participate with their friends.
Session 3: Third time’s a charm. Your player will participate in the whole session. However, sometimes players feel a little unsure.
What do you do?: Rinse and repeat. You got this routine down. You are doing the best thing you can for your player: allowing them to learn, grow and gain confidence.
All of this can be tough on us as parents, but I promise by giving your player the time they need, you are doing something great for them! Don’t get discouraged. The first month on Soccer Island might not look like that picture you had in your head, but now you know what to expect. I promise if you encourage and support your player along the way and don’t give up, you will be that soccer mom or dad you’ve always dreamed of in no time. ❤️
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.