BUZBY: The first day of practice can cause butterflies

Most young children experience first-day jitters at the beginning of every school year. And then, no sooner have they adjusted to school and the first youth sports practice comes along.
It’s not uncommon for children, especially those who are in elementary school or playing a sport for the first time, to be nervous before their first few practices.
Much like the first day of school, many of the same circumstances that make kids nervous heading into a new classroom with a new teacher, also occur at the first practice: new team, coach, teammates, expectations and routines. One word sums it up: unfamiliarity.
Every child reacts differently to attending the first practice. Some will handle it with ease, others might feel ill, and some might flat out resist going.
And don’t be completely shocked if your child who handles the first day of school just fine, all of a sudden is nervous about going to practice. Or as I learned last September, your happy-go-lucky not-a-care-in-the-world child all of a sudden becomes high strung and antsy when it’s time to head to the first practice.
The important thing as a parent is to expect this situation and try to deal with it calmly and effectively.
Expect butterflies, and along with them a loss of appetite. Make sure you serve something you know your child usually enjoys, which will make food more appealing.
But if all he wants to eat is a Pop-Tart and a piece of fruit, it’s not the end of the world for one night. It will provide some carbs for energy and is better than nothing.
Talk to your child about ways he can introduce himself to the coach and a thing or two he might say to strike up a conversation.
While your child might not actually have the nerve to do this, going through the process will at least make the coach seem more human. (Remember back to your childhood and the first time you saw your teacher or coach in a public place and realized he or she was human?)
Go through the same process when discussing teammates. Reassure your child that most likely they’ll know at least one other teammate, if not more. And remind him that even if he doesn’t, most everyone on the team will be new and looking to make friends.
After the first practice, talk to the child about what they liked or didn’t like.
This will give you some idea as to whether or not he will go to the next practice without putting up resistance. For example, if your son says he didn’t like the way the other kids made fun of his skills, expect a “fake” injury or illness to occur about an hour before the next practice.
The worst thing we can do as parents is pretend our children won’t be nervous before the first practice, just as we are before the first day of work at a new job or in a new situation.
Be prepared, and take steps to make the transition to a new team a smooth one, just like you did at the beginning of the school year.

Contact Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.

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