I began this as a comment on Jeanne’s Homeschooling and Soccer post at her blog. Then it got too long for a comment and I realized I would like to post it on my blog for more input.
My son (4) has loved balls since he could sit up and we spent a lot of time kicking a soccer ball around through his toddler years. So last September I signed him up for soccer classes at the local fieldhouse, beginning in the 3 year old class even though he was about to turn 4 because he had only taken one parent-tot class before and that had been hard for my independently-minded son. He LOVED the soccer class, followed along very well, and accomplished the tasks easily. For the next session he moved up to the 4 year old class. Where the 3 year old class had had a lot of not-just-soccer-related skill building, using hula hoops and other equipment, the 4 year old class was more focused on specific soccer skills. It was still not competitive though; every child had his or her own ball. He loved the class all through autumn and winter.
Then, at the end of February, two things happened. The first was that the coach had the kids try a very brief “real” game. He split up them up into two teams with four kids each and directed them to try to get the ONE ball into the correct net (using tiny nets and only playing in the middle of the field). The game lasted maybe two minutes, but the whole time Ian was calling, “Kick it to me! Kick it to me!” and soon he just walked dejectedly off the field, crying.
Now he does not usually do that sort of thing. He has always been the sort of kid who rarely cries when he gets hurt. Even when he was a baby he didn’t want to nurse his owies away like his biggest sister. After a quick hug, he wanted to get down and try again. In all the soccer classes before this one, the only time he cried was on his first day, when class was over and we had to leave.
So his sisters and I hugged him and tried to encourage him to try again. He started back out to the field two times but hesitated and came back to me. Then the quick little practice game was over and it was time for their team cheer and goodbyes, and he did go back for that, but his enthusiasm did not return.
The following week was something else new: parent participation. The kids’ families were invited to come out to the field and play. Ian did not want to do it for a long time, though eventually he agreed to go out on the field with his sisters. That was the last day of that 8 week session. I guess I didn’t realize how strongly Ian was affected yet, because I went ahead and paid for the next 8 week session that day.
He has not been back to soccer class since. The first day of the current session, he said he didn’t want to go and he was a little sick, so I didn’t push him to go. I did call the fieldhouse to discuss make up possibilities though, because he would also be missing day 2 of this session, due to our trip to California.
When we got back from our week-long visit to California, it became clear to me that he was seriously changing his mind about soccer. You have to realize how much of a passion soccer, and ball play in general, was to him, to understand. When my daughters were his age, they were not taking any classes regularly and they flitted among various gym and dance classes. Every time I asked Ian if he wanted to take another soccer class, his yes was always enthusiastic. Until March.
When the opportunity for a make up class came after our return from California, Ian said he didn’t want to go. I started asking him the day before, and his dad asked him when I wasn’t home, and then just an hour before class time I took him aside and tried to phrase it carefully. I wasn’t sure whether he meant he didn’t want to right now, or never. “Ian, do you ever want to go back to soccer class?” “Nope.” “Okay, so we won’t go to soccer class anymore.” “Okay,” he said, nonchalantly and got down to go back to playing.
I was a little shocked, to be honest. And I missed the class myself! It was so much fun to watch. But he has not mentioned the class or soccer since then. I’ve casually mentioned our neglected soccer ball once or twice. He hasn’t had much to say about it. I didn’t want to push him away from playing soccer by bugging him about it, so for the first couple of weeks, I made a point of not bringing it up.
I’ve been second guessing myself on this. Should I have pushed a little to have him keep going? The class was not going to become more competitive. I asked the coach about that on our last day there. And he did love it so much. I could easily picture him playing soccer forever, he had such passion for it.
I believe strongly in kids having a big say in what they do (that’s a great reason to homeschool) so I would never regret letting him stop. (I only regret paying for the current session; I’m having a hard time getting a refund.) But if he has a talent for something physical, is it better to to develop it sooner than later? I know, he’s so young. Typing it out makes my concern seem less reasonable. Of course, he has plenty of time to get back into it if he chooses.
In fact, it hasn’t even been that long since he stopped and just now I asked him if he might like to go play soccer again. I had to try a few times before he would answer me because he is currently engrossed in Roblox, a computer game. But finally he said, “I want to go to soccer class soon.”