Soccer teaches kids more than just the rules of the game. It’s an excellent way for your child to develop problem solving skills, coordination, fitness and sportsmanship. The skills your child can cultivate through this sport will last them a lifetime. 

Cultivating a love for soccer, however, is another story. Some children take to the sport and never need any extra cheerleading, while others may find some of the hard work and losses highly discouraging. To ensure your child enjoys themselves through soccer, through both wins and losses, heed these handy tips to nurture a love for both themselves and the game.

Keep Them Healthy

With any sport, a healthy body and mind is the ticket to success. A child who is already fairly active and is acquainted with healthy habits, like taking their kids multivitamins regularly, has a better chance at soccer success from the get-go. If your child arrives at a practice and feels sluggish, foggy or tired, it’s going to be difficult to put their heart into it. As well, if your child is typically rather sedentary, jumping right into a program could be too big of a leap to start. 

From a good night’s rest to adequate nutrition, make sure your child is getting what he or she needs to be happy, healthy and strong long before stepping onto the field. At mealtime, focus on whole grains, proteins and healthy fats, and make sure to stick closely to a bedtime routine to ensure he or she is well rested at the start of each day. 

Choose the Right Program

Though you may have big ambitions for your little one, beginning with a competitive program may not be the right place to start. Organized team sports are best reserved for those who are already familiar with what it takes to play the game. Casual classes, day camps and recreational lessons are all great ways to introduce a child to soccer without the added pressure of performance or competition between peers. 

Before your soccer program search begins, consider both the age and temperament of your child. Younger children do better in recreational leagues that focus more on fundamentals and drills, but just because your child is older doesn’t mean he or she is ready to take on a more advanced program. If your child seems bored or overwhelmed with the program you’ve chosen, try another before throwing in the towel. 

Get Involved

Few things are more rewarding to a child than seeing their biggest fans cheering them on by the sidelines. Even if you don’t know much about the sport, your involvement and support means everything to your child — as long as you don’t overdo it. Too much involvement on your end could backfire, as the pressure, even unintentional pressure, could prove to be too much. Low-key, curiosity-led connection is the way to go. 

Just as important as your involvement in your child’s soccer endeavors is their involvement, too. Take time to check in with your child periodically to ask how training is going and to see if you can do anything to help to improve their experience. When your child feels like a part of their decision-making team, you’re delicately encouraging a sense of personal responsibility and investment in the sport. 

Focus on the Process

If your child focuses on winning and losing, the spark for the sport will fizzle out fast. The most important thing you can do to help your child love soccer is to emphasize the joy experienced with every new goal reached, the feel-good endorphins that accompany all the hard work and the sense of accomplishment earned by facing every setback and challenge. Help your child to focus on their progress and to find reasons to beam with pride after every practice. 

Your child needs to know that you would never expect perfection, and he or she shouldn’t either. Soccer is much more than winning, and you’re on there to support and to help everyone to do their best.