As school has begun so has the youth sport season. Many parents are running to practices during the week and games on the weekends. I know this feeling first hand as my son plays football. I often feel like I am the one running a marathon.
Watching my son play the sport he loves every weekend is the highlight of my week. I love to see him smile when he gets a touchdown or a tackle. Most of all I am just grateful that he has chosen a sport for himself that he enjoys.
As I stand on the sidelines and listen to some of the parents cheer for their sons, I hear a variety of comments. Some parents are encouraging while others are screaming at the top of their lungs, “You can do better than that!” Last week I witnessed a father running down the hill during a game to tell the coach, “My wife can coach better than you.” Talk about embarrassing! My husband and I looked at each other and thought, “Is this guy for real? This is not an NFL game. It’s a 7 to 8 year old tackle football league.” We were not as embarrassed for the father as we were for his son. You could see in his child’s face the disappointment he felt from his father’s actions.
Cheering for your daughter or son’s teams and efforts on the courts and fields is a great thing to do. Being their sideline coach however is not such a great idea if you want them to enjoy the sport they are playing.
Dr. Patrick Cohn and Lisa Coach are two sports psychology experts who know a great deal about parenting and sports. Here are 3 great suggestions on how to help your child succeed at whatever sport they choose to play. http://www.active.com/mindandbody/articles/3-Sports-Psychology-Tips-for-...
Sports Psychology Tip No.1: Lower Expectations
You might not know that coaches' and parents' high expectations for their kids can cause kids to feel pressured. Parents and coaches sometimes impose their own expectations on their kids, with the intended goal of boosting kids' confidence. But often, this has the opposite effect.
When working with softball and baseball parents, for example, we help parents and athletes understand that strict expectations--parents' demands about how their kids should perform--actually hurt kids' performance.
Athletes who have high levels of self-confidence end up in the winner's circle. You want your athletes to feel fully confident at game time. That means you need to keep your expectations in check. Parents' and coaches' overly high expectations can cause athletes to focus too much on the results. This often makes them feel frustrated, especially when they are not performing up to their (and your) standards.
Sports Psychology Tip No.2: Watch What You Say
Here's how it works: Parents and coaches, in their sincerest efforts to be supportive, often say things that kids interpret as expectations. For example, a softball parent with good intentions might say to an athlete, "You should go 4-for-4 at the plate against this pitcher today."At first, you might think this sounds supportive. It's what parents should say to improve their child’s confidence, right? Wrong!
Many athletes do not interpret such well-meaning input in this way. In fact, we have found that young players interpret such statements in surprising ways. Some athletes might think they need to be perfect at the plate and get a hit every time at-bat, and if they don't they are letting down the parent or the coach.
You might think it sounds like a stretch, but this is how the minds of the young athletes work. Kids internalize or adopt your high expectations, then become overly concerned or worried about getting a hit every time they are at bat out of the fear of letting others down.
Sports Psychology Tip No.3: Emphasize Process Over Results
Be careful about the expectations you communicate to your young athletes. We suggest that you instead focus on more manageable goals or objectives that help kids focus on the process.
For example, you might ask softball players to see the ball early when at bat or let go of mistakes quickly. Your players can accomplish these important objectives more often than getting a hit every time at bat.
If you as coaches or parents want to help your young athletes achieve their full potential in sports and reap the many benefits, be sure to acquaint yourself with these and many other mental game strategies to improve success.
Remember parents that after each game, win or lose, you should tell your children you are proud of them. Do not say to your child that you are disappointed in his or her performance. This response can lead to the development of low self esteem. Always encourage improvement but do not demand it.
Most of all encourage your children to have fun! The more fun they have, the more open they will be to learning. Not all children are going to be NFL stars, but as parents we can all make them feel as though they are!
Have a great season everyone!
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