This summer he was almost 4 1/2, and man it was a huge difference compared with last summer when he was about 3 1/2. Last summer he ran off the field, whined, grabbed all the cones that were marking the perimeter of the field and decided he wanted to work on them... He LOVED soccer last year, but his attention span could not handle even the short 45-minutes. Most of the kids last year were the same way, at 3 years old.
This year, though, was so different. Another mom and I kept commenting on how much growth we saw in our kids in just a year. A year made a huge difference. I think it's great to start sports early, so 3 is fine, just be prepared to have low expectations and know that the following year of 4 will be MUCH better. My son was way more into it this year, listening better, following directions more, and raising his hand to answer questions. It was awesome.
A few things that worked for us that may be helpful to you if you do summer soccer camp or fall programs:
*Hydrate more during the day of soccer, especially in the summer. They give water breaks during the practice, so make sure you take two bottles full of cold water so you have plenty for breaks and afterward. Drinking during the day ahead of time helps, too.
*If you have another child with you who isn't playing, make sure you take something for her to snack on or play with, like another soccer ball. It's also helpful to have someone go with you to look after your younger one so you can participate more with your older one. With the age 3-4 group, they expect parent involvement so it's nice to have someone caring for your other child so you can really be present kickin' the ball around with your big kid.
*Snacks... pack several for after, but especially make a bigger snack than normal for before camp. They need that extra energy. Make sure the snack has protein - yogurt and graham crackers, apples with peanut butter, cheese stick and carrots, etc.
*Remember the sun. Pack a hat or sunglasses for shade. Apply sunblock before they get out there and start sweating. Even in the fall it's important to remember to keep your babies safe in the sun.
*Take a million pictures. The look on their faces when they are so focused on what their coach is saying, or the smile on their face as they are kicking the ball and you are running after them... priceless! Even if it's just your phone, snap some pictures. Get down low and look up at how tall they are standing with the ball. Put the camera up in the air and just click, see what you capture in the big picture. Take pictures of the details.... his shinguards, his new baseball hat to keep out the sun, the jersey they gave him that made him feel like a brand new soccer player.
*Remember that it's for FUN. Low expectations are best with soccer camps for preschoolers. They are not super stars yet. They have a ways to go before they are standing guard in front of the net or before they score many goals. Have fun with it, remind your child that it's for fun, too.
*Get some gear for home to practice. We have a net and extra soccer balls at home, and we play the games we learned at soccer camp to better teach my son the skills. He loves it!