Some kids jump right in and seem like naturals at sports. Others cling to the sidelines and act like they’d rather be anywhere else. As a pee wee soccer coach, I’ve seen both types of players. My own daughter was hesitant when she first started soccer. As a parent, you can help your child get her feet wet with youth sports.
Let Your Child Choose
You know your child would love a sport if she would only play. As tempting as it is to force her into a sport, let her have a say. Forcing her to play may make her even more upset and resistant to the sport. She may come around eventually, but you might also be out the money you paid to join the team.
To encourage her to play, give her a few choices. Say, “There are so many fun options. You could play t-ball or soccer. Which would you rather do?” This might encourage her to choose more than just asking if she wants to play a particular sport.
Sometimes having someone she knows on the team helps your timid child get involved. If possible, sign her up for a league with a friend or classmate. It can be even better if the coach is someone she knows. You can’t always control the team, but some familiarity is a comfort to most kids.
Let Her Warm Up
You got her in the uniform and made it to the field. You may be excited for her to jump right in, but some kids need time to warm up. Don’t force her onto the field or yell at her if she wants to hang close to you. Discuss the situation with the coach ahead of time if possible so she can help you out. With any luck, you’ll get a coach who is experienced working with children.
One of my players last season never came out of the field during our first practice. I went over to him several times during the practice just to let him know I hadn’t forgotten about him. But I never tried to force or guilt him into playing. I did my best to make a connection with him by telling him little stories and making him laugh. By the next practice, he was ready to come out on the field. He turned out to be one of our best little players who really opened up with the team.
Let your child know you are there for her. Sit with her so she can watch for a while to see what the other kids are doing. She may decide it looks fun and join in on her own. Don’t give up if she doesn’t join the first time. Keep showing up at games and practices and she may eventually try.
When she does decide to join in with the team, let her know how proud you are of her. Cheer for her even if she doesn’t do well. Tell her after the game that you are so proud of her for getting out there and having fun with her teammates. That encouragement may help her stick with it.
Your child’s behavior often comes down to how you handle the situation. If you’re calm and relaxed about the sports experience, she just may calm down and let herself have fun, too.