Gabe played his first soccer game yesterday. He has been going to practice for weeks, and it is a delight to see him running 'til his face his red, listening carefully to his coach, and venturing into conversations with his teammates. It has been a fun experience for him, you can tell, and he often asks me questions about the rules of the game when we are hanging out.
He was excited to get his jersey at practice on Thursday and excited to play his first game, but about five minutes in I could tell that we were going to have trouble. Everyone was yelling directions to him "Move forward Gabe!" "Go after the ball Gabe." "Come this way Gabe." And each time his name was called out, I saw a his head droop, with the corners of his mouth following. He is very self-conscience. I think he had a physical and emotional reaction to having everyone yell at him and draw attention to him, even if it was done cheerfully and with good intentions. I could just see the enthusiasm melting away and being replaced by anxiety. During the second quarter he was knocked onto his behind and the tears erupted. His coach tried to pick him and playfully guide him around the field while he was crying to get him to shake it off, but it only made it worse. He ended up sitting the rest of the game out with us.
I am hoping that next week Gabe will be better prepared for the noise, crowds, and the feeling of the game. I am hoping that he braces himself for it and prepares mentally. While I could understand perfectly what he was feeling out there on the field, to the point of feeling anxiety with him, I want him to understand that he can overcome those feelings to go on and have the fun that he has at practices. Maybe Chad can play with him a little this week to prepare him more with what happens during a game. Maybe it is just how he feels right now and he will grow out of it naturally. Anyone have any ideas to help him?