Mini Soccer = BIG fail.

When I signed Jasper up for the 4 week mini soccer session I guess it was a case of massive over-optimism about his ability to a) enjoy group activities and b) adjust to new situations.

From the second we stepped on to the (admittedly) chaotic field, Jasper wanted NOTHING to do with it. He would barely let us put him down, let alone participate. He kept saying he wanted to go home, so after 15 frustrating minutes we took him home.

Now, he wasn’t the only toddler out of sorts – it’s for 2-3 year olds, so cooperation isn’t exactly easy to elicit from this age group – but I do believe we were the only family that just walked out.

Last night at bathtime I asked Jasper if he wanted to try again, or if he wanted to not go back. He said “I’m going to be a good boy mommy and kick the ball.”  Which was so heartbreaking! I told him he was a good boy and asked how he felt about soccer and he said “I was a little afraid of it.”

Being a shy person myself, I wish there was something I could do to spare him a lifetime of “fear” in the face of what could otherwise be fun – but I don’t really know how to help him come out of his shell.   The only thing I can think to do is take him back for the remaining 4 sessions and keep my fingers crossed that he warms up to it enough to be brave and later proud of himself for being brave.

What else can I do?

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Michelle says:

My son is 5 years old and still very timid. He’s pretty shy (like me) until he is comfortable. He would literally cling to me at a friends birthday party until he was 4 1/2 years old and not want to participate even though he knew all the kids. He is finally breaking out of his shell. We also commented the other night that he can’t do team sports because if he gets hurt, he cries like a baby. Poor thing.

My daughter is Jasper’s age and she is WILD. She would jump right into an activity without any fear. That being said, I agree with the other poster that team activities for 2-3 years old is way too young. My niece is the same age, and my sister keeps signing her up for activities that she wants nothing to do with!

Just found your site and I love it – your tutorial on how to focus FINALLY taught me how to use my Rebel in about 5 minutes flat!

Then I read this post and now I know we’re destined to be friends :). I have a 2 1/2 yr old who also tends to “take a while to warm up”. And I was also a shy kid so it just kills me if he misses out on things due to fear.

The best advice I can give you is to read up on emotional coaching. John Gottman has a great book about teaching kids to be emotionally intelligent (its on Amazon).

We’ve been using the practices informally for probably over a year now and I can’t rave enough about how great it’s been for my little guy.

It’s not about making him Mr. Outgoing – it’s just about making him comfortable to try new things. Basically just be teaching him how to recognize feelings like fear, embarrassment, sadness. Once he was able to recognize those feelings, he could tell me about them, we could talk it out and then the new situations didn’t seem so overwhelming.

I hope that helps – I swear I don’t work for the publishing company or anything. I just REALLY know where you’re coming from and its been such a joy to see my little man go from always needing a good half hour to warm up to usually having no hesitation now.

Anyway, like I said – love your site and am your newest follower!!

Sarah says:

It’s been interesting reading this post and all of the comments, as my husband and I have been thinking about sending Finn (about 2 months younger than Jasper) to indoor soccer classes this summer (SoFla is too hot for non-water outdoor sports at that time of year, unfortunately). He takes SO long to adjust to new situations, though…. Maybe we should just stick to one plan: hiring someone to come to the house to give him swimming lessons. That may be enough of a challenge in itself. Maybe he’s just too young for anything more organized.

GiGi says:

Ariana, as you may remember, my 9 yo is a lifelong soccer player. His first word was ‘ball’ and even before he could walk he would beg us to hold his hands and steady him while he kicked at his toy soccer ball. He’s been playing organized team soccer for almost 5 years now and it’s like breathing to him.

WITH THAT SAID, my boy is one of the most shy kids you will ever encounter. And like you and Jasper, he gets that from me. His first soccer experience was a COMPLETE DISASTER and he refused to participate for quite a long while.

We kept taking him back. And eventually, he took to it and loves the game.

Sometimes all we could do was to get him to sit and watch. But even that has its merits.

My over all advice is much of what Anne said. Keep going, but don’t make a big deal about it. If it’s not a big deal to you, it won’t be a big deal to him.

the other thing I wanted to point out is that this is a life-long thing, at least for us. Even at 9 years old, when we put Logan into a new league, he freaked out. We just kept on going until he warmed up. And now he’s once again at home on the soccer pitch.

We go through this each year when starting a new grade at school. We go through it when he changes rooms at Sunday school. We go through it when there is ANY change in our routine.

Just keep plugging along. It all works out in the end.


Jody says:

Ariana, I have become a follower of your blog and really enjoy hearing about Jasper’s adventures. I’m not a parent but I love children and I’m an early childhood educator and kindergarten teacher here in Australia. After reading this post I remembered something from a workshop that I went to. It’s called the Circle of Security and it’s a really simple diagram but really makes sense. You may have heard of it before but if not, here’s a link ( with a PDF of the diagram. Be sure to download “Travelling around the Circle of Security” file which has this great quote:

“Children sometimes cue their parents for protection (see “Protect Me” on the Circle). Providing protection from clear and immediate danger is a basic part of parenting that we clearly understand. However, children are sometimes frightened and need to be soothed even when, to the adult, there is no clear danger.”

Hope this helps Ariana! BTW your photography work rocks! I wish I was half as talented as you! :D

jbhat says:

I tend to agree with the first Sarah overall. I guess maybe go back for the 2nd one, but not force it.

Good luck!


Sarah says:

My oldest is very shy – and often has a lot of anxiety that goes along with being shy in a new situation.

We tried all kinds of events, and sometimes she got a little better, but usually hated it through and through. Soccer was included as something we tried, and she really did not want to play. (I think part of it was also that there was contact, which she really doesn’t like!)

Finally we tried gymnastics, and she LOVES it. Is eager to go, learns new things and it has helped leaps and bounds with her confidence.

Now, we ask if she wants to try something new and if she doesn’t, we don’t push it.

Good luck! I know how hard it can be knowing when to push and force them to do something even under protest.

Kristy says:

Sorry :-( !! As you know, I took J to the same soccer last year, and I felt a little stressed because he was the most over excited kid there (forget about waiting his turn… and he only wanted to play basketball with the soccer ball!). But agreeing with the others here, each week got a little better and J calmed down by the last session. The OPPOSITE problem from you, but maybe the same outcome could happen? Last year it was in the gym which I thought was far worse! I agree that you should bring him back, if nothing else he can watch! J has “sports buffet” with the 3-4’s right after Jasper (same field at 10:30am)… maybe one session Jasper would like to stay and watch/hang out with us! Yesterday J played and then we hung out on the playground for a while after, it was fun! Maybe the J’s will cancel eachother out! My J can pull your J out of his shell and your J can calm my J down a little :-). Good luck!

Sarah says:

I think your response depends on why you signed him up. If you did it because you think he should, and he’s not into it, I would stop. It’s not something mandatory and he’s still quite young to “get” organized sports. If you did it because he expressed interest and you think that it’s something that he’ll love, I’d keep going but let him decide how long to stay.

Having said that, my son (a few months older than yours), hate preschool when I enrolled him last fall. But I felt it was vitally important that he go, as he was otherwise being cared for at home alone all day by his grandmother. If he were in some other groups setting I would have passed on it but he’s not. And he needs it. If J has other outlets for activity and social time with his peers, I wouldn’t force something like this.

ariana says:

Thanks, great link Anne!

Ave & Shane – there are actually only 3 more sessions left- probably not enough to get him comfortable. It’s at 9:30, so the timing is good. One major problem is that it’s at the same time with the other age groups too, so there weren’t just 20 other two year olds, there were also older kids on the field and tons of other parents etc.

Thanks for the advice though! I will take him back, and hope he’s even interested enough to watch!

Shane says:

ditto, ditto! G had hit/miss days at soccer but after a few sessions it got better. The class gets smaller as the time goes – our last class of our 1st Soccer session was just Griffin. The most recent 8 wk session went from around 25-30 kids on day 1 to 6 on the last day. Even on bad days, G still wanted to play. We ended up on session 2 opting for a nearby towns program because it was at 8:30 am instead of 12:30 pm in our town. Keep going — even if he just sits and watches the other kids and play soccer w/ him in the yard during the week.

Ava says:

I also third the notion of going back. For starters the first session is always rough. That’s when everyone will be there. Over time, even at session 2, lots of families drop out, because they decide it’s not for them. This automatically makes the class smaller, and less hectic.
Second… what everyone else said.

S had to carry G around the first class too. It got SO much better over time.

On thing to consider though: what time is the class? If it’s close to nap-time or lunch-time, it’s going to be hard no matter how many kids are in the class and I would look for another class that avoids that time-slot.

anne laney says:

crap WRONG LINK! lmao sorry i had them bookmarked this is the CORRECT one.

Aimee says:

2-3 year olds are way too young for organized sports and sports camps. They only advice I can give is to not acknowledge the shyness. Take him back and if he wants to go home tough. He stays even if it means sitting on the sidelines and watching. If he learns that every time he is scared he gets his way it will only get worse. :-(

anne laney says:

let me just say ashton is the exact same way. i signed him up for tumbling and art classes almost 8 weeks ago. HE HATED THEM always asked to leave and didn’t EVER want me to put him down! all the mothers kept coming up to me and telling me to keep bringing him back, that their kids did the EXACT thing. i never believed them. their kids were participating and having fun.. no way were they ever like ashton! well, guess what. two weeks ago ashton started to LOVE his classes. he still wants me to hold him during the group stuff but is more eager to join them. and last week was the first time he was actually EXCITED about going into the classroom! my advice is what i read. KEEP GOING and STAY there for the entire time (do not leave until it’s time to go!). it also says do NOT compare your kid to others (I.E. “jasper why aren’t you playing like them? they are being good boys/girls and doing what they should etc”). instead say, “wow look at all the fun they are having out there. doesn’t that look awesome?!”.. and let him warm up to it. don’t FORCE him to participate. we sat on the sidelines in tumbling several weeks before he started doing some of the stuff.. we admired all the fun the other kids were having. we also clapped and cheered them on. he was learning stuff because after a few weeks of tumbling he started doing front rolls (a group thing that he STILL won’t do) so he’s paying attention even though i thought he wasn’t. :o)