Youth sports is more than skill, uniforms, team chemistry, coaching philosophy, and great snacks. In fact, experts say that it’s actually more of a mind game than anything else: 80% mental and 20% physical.
If that’s the case, how can you help your child win the mind game? You don’t have to read a sports psychology textbook or earn a psychology degree online to help them dig deep and gain the mental edge.
It starts with teaching them some pretty simple sportsmanship concepts.
Teach them to win & lose properly
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do both. A proper winning attitude combines humility with confidence and offers a respectful handshake to the opponent. A proper losing attitude also offers a respectful handshake to the winner, and leaves the game feeling dissatisfied with the loss, but determined to work hard and be ready for the next contest.
Encourage them to set goals
Setting goals give your young athlete motivation to work hard. Ask them what they want to achieve this season and remind them throughout the season of their goals. Their goals should be tough enough to push them, but not so tough that they are constantly feeling defeated.
Explain how they can visualize success
Coach them to recover from “failures”
Give them tools to deal with pressure
Sports puts pressure on kids. Whether it’s a “big game,” the fear of disappointing parents and family, or the desire to be seen by the local TV or news. If you can help them see the importance of focusing on their game and not the spectators, it will strengthen their mental game.
Have them focus on their own personal performance
Kids have a tendency to compare themselves to others. If they use other athletes as their measuring stick, they will either get frustrated because there is no way they feel they can compete, or they will never achieve their personal best because they are only striving to get ahead of the other guy, not do their best.
Gaining the mental edge in sports will be an ongoing challenge for your child. I’m not sure that the battle ever ends. I guess you’d have to ask LeBron James or Paytan Manning or Tiger Woods.
But I do know that an athlete who can gain the mental edge in sports, has a better chance of success in the game.
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