Tuesday, November 18, 2014

herding cats and sweating buckets...or what to expect when you sign your toddler up for soccer

We enrolled Riggs in a soccer program for the first time this year and have been going every Saturday morning since it started in September. The week before the first class I remember frantically searching the internet for what to expect during an indoor soccer class for toddlers. I didn't really find much, so I vowed to write about our experience here after our first session came to a close.

Saturday will be our last class of this session, and boy have we learned a lot. 

First and foremost...be prepared for complete exhaustion after the first class and probably for many weeks to follow. And I'm talking about you, as the parent, not necessarily your toddler (they seem to have limitless amounts of energy, especially when you expect them to be tired out). There is just something about being in a loud gym full of toddlers and their parents simultaneously urging your child to participate while praying non-stop that the other parents don't think you're a total wack-job that will just wear you out. And that will also make you break out in a cold-sweat every single week upon entering the gym (tip #1: you will need deodorant, lots of it. And also a big bottle of wine ice-water).

The second thing we have learned? They won't always choose to participate. Sometimes, they will run giant laps around the entire gym while the rest of the adorably enthralled toddlers pop the bubbles with their tiny feet like the coach asked them too. Sometimes, they will lay on the floor in the middle of the gym ignoring you as you stand next to them and silently plead with them to get up and play the game the rest of the toddlers are playing. Sometimes, they will scream and cry and thrash their bodies wildly when you try to get them to sit down on their 'dot' during circle time as the rest of the wide-eyed tots peacefully pass the ball around, saying their names aloud when the ball comes to them. 

And you know what? It's okay. Really, it is. That's why you're there; so that they will slowly learn that participating is fun, even when they'd rather be doing something else at that specific moment. And so that you will learn that your child is learning and 'participating' even when it feels like they're not getting anything from the experience except for  dirty-looks from the other parents. Ditch your dreamy expectations (admit it, when you signed them up you stopped for a moment to imagine what that first Saturday morning class would be like...your adorable toddler, decked out in their tiny little uniform with the jersey perfectly tucked into the shorts, smiling and laughing as they expertly copied the drills that coach was showing them, while you watched lovingly from the bench, sipping on your chai tea latte and snapping pictures) of what it will be like and prepare for the worst.

This isn't to say that you should just sit back and let your child run wild every week. I try to make sure that I encourage Riggs to participate as much as possible, and sometimes even require that he participate or sit on the bench with me. However, there will be some rough moments. I strive to have a good attitude and stay cheerful throughout the entire practice, rather than allow myself to get frustrated and ask (often aloud) why it was that I paid for soccer practice when he'd rather lay there in the middle of the gym or eat a fruit snack on the sidelines (tip #2: bring snacks for after - don't be like me on the first practice, the only mom/dad not to bring snacks, trying to get Riggs' coat on and get out of there as fast as possible while he watches every single other child eat a snack and asks repeatedly what he can eat).

Every week after soccer I talk to Riggs about how practice went. I praise him for the good and gently remind him of how he could have made different choices during certain parts of class. It really seems to help and each week he improves so much. I am so proud of him and how much he has grown in regards to interacting with the other kids and listening to his coach.

Here is what you can expect during a typical toddler soccer practice.

  • Circle time/warm ups: each week practice begins with the kids sitting in a circle introducing themselves. Then they stand up and do a few stretches/warm ups. Circle time is utilized frequently throughout the 45 minute practice.
  • Drills: The kids do excercises that encourage familiarity with and control of the soccer ball. This includes tapping the ball with their feet, rolling it back and forth with their feet, jumping over the ball, and running in tight circles around their ball. 

  • At some point during practice the coach leads the kids to the drinking fountain for a water break.

  • Games: the rest of the class is spent playing various games, some that include the soccer ball and many that don't. The purpose of most of the games is to encourage listening while running and playing. Many of the games require listening closely to the coach's direction, like red light-green light, for example.

Despite feeling like never stepping foot back into that gym after some weeks, I'm really happy with how Riggs' first experience with organized sports practice has gone. He has already learned so much and loves going to soccer practice every week.

If you have any questions about something I didn't mention, feel free to ask! I am an open book...haha.


  1. I notice the photos aren't of the non-participatory Riggs, and that's good. Just the description was enough to make my grandpa-hair stand on end... Nicely done!

  2. It never occurred to me that there might be toddler soccer classes! It looks like so much fun (although i can just imagine the behind the scenes shenanigans!) I might have to see if any are run in this part of the woods!! Great info thanks! :)