11 answers

Son Is Super-shy at Soccer

My 3-year-old son (will be 4 in August) was SO excited when we enrolled him in spring soccer. He's very athletic and seems to love all sports so we thought it would be a good start. He talks about soccer all week, and is excited to go, but as soon as we get there he shuts down. He's pretty shy to begin with, even at daycare (won't cry or anything but will cling to me until I leave), but it's so frustrating to see him stand there and not participate. He either won't go to where the other kids are, preferring to cling to my husband or me, or he will go out onto the field but will stand there with his head down. When I ask him if he wants to play, he says yes. I've told him before that we can go home if he would rather, but then he throws a fit and says he wants to stay. It's all very informal, so it's a very low pressure situation. Has anyone else dealt with this and/or have any suggestions? He's only been twice and it's only for an hour at a time so he hasn't really had a chance to acclimate. I wish we could drop him off and leave him so he couldn't cling to us, but obviously that's not an option.

What can I do next?

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I totally agree woth Megan C. Set up a play date with one or two of the kids on the team. Once he has a friend or two on the team, you won't be able to hold him back.

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He sounds like a "slow-to-warm-up" kid, like my 5 year old. I would take my son to all types of places and he would sit right next to me, rarely ever going to have fun with other kids. The more I exposed him to, the more comfortable he became, but it is a slow process. My advice is to give him as many opportunities to be around other kids his age. As long as he wants to keep going to soccer, even if he doesn't actually participate, keep taking him. Don't "feed into" his behavior. Be supportive, but don't give him too much attention if he gets there and doesn't want to go out on the field. Don't try to push or force him into it either, as this often back-fires.
Maybe ask 1 or 2 other parents if they'd like to get together for a play date, so your son can get to know some of his team mates. Maybe he'll be more willing to join in if he feels like he already knows a few people. I can relate to how frustrating these situations can be, but give him time!

1 mom found this helpful

I'd call your son a "watcher." He may not want to do anything just yet because He is afraid he may do something "wrong." So he is going to watch his teammates for awhile to see what they are doing, even if it is just running around like goons. Keep taking him to soccer. Later on in the season, or even next year, he'll be the one runnng all over the field while some younger children watch him.

By the way, try to leave daycare a bit more quickly so your son doesn't ge the opportunity to cling to you.

E, ths is PERFECTLY NORMAL and happens each and every season to everyone. Just keep taking him. Work with him at home on his soccer skills, if you can. Also if you are at each game and your daughter can be contained in the stroller or by your hubby, get out on the field with him (ask the coach if you can help out)..and then keep him close to you and kick the ball to him..or lead him around the field by holding his arm while doing the activities. Eventually he will warm up. And the following season, you won't have any issues. My son just turned 4 and last season (fall) he was the same as your son. During the games we had to bribe him with after game snacks to get him on the field and he always played with his shirt. This season, at least so far, he is on the field practicing with the other kids and his first game is on Sat.
Good luck and know you are not alone..it is perfectly normal.
M.: Working mom of 3 (11girl, 4boy, & soon to be 2girl)

Some children eventually warm up and want to play. If it's low pressure, that's great. He might jump in there after he's gotten a little more comfortable with the teammates. Stick around after the game and see if he gets some time to make friends with a more outgoing child. I'd also probably move a little closer to the field each time and cheer him on anyway. Could be he just wants to watch, which means you don't have to sign him up for more programs. Just take him to sports events. He's only 3 and there's plenty of time for organized sports. At 4.5 and 5, my son played t-ball. Or, rather he played with the grass in the outfield while his teammates played t-ball. This is why parents bring cameras and take lots and lots of pictures. When your son is a CEO or pro ball player, you'll look back at those pictures and laugh.

My daughter is the same exact way. She is 4 and is starting to play Wiffle Ball(like T-ball). Today was actually her first game and she was a little nervous I could tell. Before the game the coaches asked if she wanted to practice running around the bases. She said no, but I didnt push her. Well on first base they put some kind of base that honked when the kids stepped on it...yeah it is really cute idea actually. Finally she did it with me, I was excited inside. She is always shy in new settings but I kindof thought she would have differnt with this. She did really good...she hit really good....she paid attention and she said she had fun...so IM HAPPY WITH THAT...lol. She is shy all the time but she gets in REALLY honest(from me). I think its fine to be a watcher, you just have to make sure they dont get ran over.I just try to encourage her in allot! So good luck! Some kids are outgoing and some are quiet, ours are just the shy ones!!!

I totally agree woth Megan C. Set up a play date with one or two of the kids on the team. Once he has a friend or two on the team, you won't be able to hold him back.

Please don't worry about this because it is totally normal. 3 is very young to do any kind of organized "sport". My youngest was reluctant to play soccer too when he was 4. In fact, I ended up doing the practices along side oh him until he was ready to join the group on his own. I think gentle patience is the key. Another option is Tot Soccer at the Fairfax Sportsplex. The coach running it is a seasoned veteran and an absolute genius with children. THey don't play competitive games. Everyone gets a ball and the children actually learn soccer skills without realizing it. I highly recommend this program. My 3 children (ages 11, 9, and 5) all did this program and now my older ones play travel soccer.

I think it is probably his age more so than anything else. My son will be six in May, and last year he was in a similiar soccer group. Even at 5, he wasn't as into pushing his way into the group, and tended to hang back, although I wouldn't say he is shy normally. It seems to be the circumstances, and that he is almost "performing" in front of a group (i.e. stage fright). I think that your son will warm up to it, but don't push. Just keep encouraging him, and let him take it at his own pace. Mine didn't start soccer until last year, but some of the other kids who did start at 3 are now very into it, and aren't shy at all now that they ar 4 or 5. Good luck!

Perhaps he's shy because he doesn't know the other kids by name? Maybe a playdate with the team or a teammate outside of a game would help?

Give him time. There is a great book by Greenspan about helping the shy or slow to warmup child. Ask your librarian about help finding it. I don't have the title. It is imp you don't label him as shy and just follow his lead. I totally concur that you need to give him opportunities frequently to be around other kids and slowly become comfortable. Sometimes just a one on one playdate or two with another quite kid from his daycare class will improve their confidence a ton!!! Oh and make sure he is hearing really well out of both ears, no fluid..etc.


My son did this too at this age, but it was at The Little Gym. He had so much fun in class, but on the last day, all the parents were there with cameras and all of a sudden my son got stage fright and didn't want to leave my lap. He was like this at the first birthday party for a friend he went to as well. His preschool teacher told me there are a few different ways kids will react to a new situation. My son is the wait-and-see type. When starting any new class, he likes to watch and see how everything works before he starts to participate. It's perfectly normal. There's a lot of action on a soccer field and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Can you get to the field a little early so he has a chance to kick a ball around before the class starts? He'll be fine once he gets use to it.

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