5 Ways to Improve Confidence in your Young Athlete
- You might be tempted to shower your child with positive comments about their ability but use caution. Comments and compliments should be sincere and straightforward. Children are perceptive and know when they are not, and excessive praise for an easily accomplished task may convey negative information about the child’s competence. Or, you just may get the eye roll if you go on and on, but for a different reason. I often hear kids remark “she has to say I’m, great, she’s my Mom, but she really doesn’t know anything about soccer so I don’t listen”.
- Identify beliefs that can lead to stress, worry and undermine confidence. Unrealistic expectations about scoring, winning or making someone else happy take away from the focus of play. If you hear them making comments like “I have to score two goals today” or “I have to win or my coach won’t like me as much” nip them right away. Help your child develop new thoughts that will help rather than hurt them.
- Go easy on the pep talks. Many parents forget that ‘pumping’ their child up can tip them over the edge. Keep it short and encouraging, and watch your intensity level. It doesn’t take much for some kids to view these talks as pressure. (If my Mom/Dad is so intense about this, it must be important. I have to do well).
- Be respectful when dealing with an upset child. We might know its not a big deal, but to them it is and should be approached as such. Try to help your child process events and use open ended questions. If a tearful child says “I played horrible today” don’t say: “it will get better tomorrow”. Instead try “sounds as though you’re upset, can you tell me what happened?” This acknowledges the child’s feelings and lets them know you’re willing to help them work it out.
- Children who live with excessive worry about making mistakes are stressed and aren’t able to enjoy their sport. Create an atmosphere where mistakes are a normal part of learning and playing competitively. Let them know its ok to miss a shot or fall. Tell them every athlete makes errors and has bad days, and what’s most important is how they handle the challenge. Encourage them to come up with their very own key word or phrase they can repeat to themselves when something goes wrong to help them get back on track. Try suggestions like “flush it”, or “move on”. Have fun coming up with a cue and then encourage them to try it out in practice.