Playing a sport might not require the same audacious personality that getting dramatic on the stage does, but for a child it can be just as scary. While sports build confidence and self-esteem, starting out with a shy or hesitant temperament is a hurdle for the child, parents, teammates and coaches. Does this mean that a shy child shouldn’t get active with athletics? Of course not! Parents and coaches can help a slow-to-warm-up child feel comfortable on the field with some careful planning and kind words.
What can you do to help your shy child?
Your child may spend countless hours in the backyard kicking the soccer ball around, but when she gets on the field for real, your child seems scared. You know it’s not the actual athletic activity that frightens her. So, what is it? There is a coach giving her direction and teammates yelling her name. Shy kids may not know how to handle this social sporting situation. Set up a game at home in which you, your spouse and siblings (or a few family friends) play the roles of their coach and the other players. Role-play the game, focusing on how your child interacts with the other people on the field. The more practice your child gets, the more comfortable she will feel. This leaves her mind free to concentrate on the game, instead of on the social side of things.
Focus on the Pluses
Your child may not speak his mind and he often shies away from anything that’s unfamiliar. But, when it comes to hitting a ball he’s a homerun super-star. Find and focus on the positive parts of play for your child. If he excels at a sport, or a specific part of the sport, praise him. Keep in mind, not every child is a natural athlete. If your little slugger is still learning the game or isn’t the top player, you can still find a positive to point out. This could include his amazing effort, how well he focuses during game play or his good sportsmanship practices.
Shy children don’t want to be the center of attention. If the spotlight scares your child, don’t focus it on them. Although you want to cheer them on, don’t have to go overboard and embarrass them. Nix the high volume, “Yeah, you can do it! Get the goal! Make the shot!” screams as you run up and down the field alongside your child. Instead, hang back and provide praise in a low-key way.
If social situations challenge your child’s shyness, start with a single sport that he plays as an individual or go for private lessons. This isn’t to say that he can’t, or shouldn’t, play on a team. Instead, let him warm up to a sport through an activity that is one-on-one such as private tennis lessons.
Work together from the beginning to set realistic goals. For a shy child these may include asking the coach to play a favorite position or stepping up to bat with confidence.
Just because your child is shy doesn’t mean that she should skip sports. Ax the anxiety and help your child to enjoy athletic activities. The more comfortable they feel on the field, the more their self-confidence and esteem will grow!