Quitting youth sports is not something I would usually go around recommending because I love it so much and believe it can teach kids so much, but there’s an exception to every rule and here’s one reason why I’d advise it for your child. If your child is not growing in o confidence, then maybe it’s time to hang up the sports equipment and let him find an activity that helps his confidence grow. Wait until the season is over, of course, because commitment is a lesson he needs to be learning too.
There’s two sides to the confidence coin: faith in someone else and faith in yourself. And your child should be learning both of these as she plays sports.
Confidence In Others
Learning to rely on others is perhaps not something we talk about enough in youth sports. We talk about teaching kids to fight their own battles and we encourage them to be mentally tough on their own.
We are so busy telling kids “you can do this, you can do this” that we forget that sometimes in order to get the job done, your child needs to rely on others.
Here’s the balancing act: teaching kids independence and helping them understand the value of Team. And the trick is to help them learn these two concepts at the same time.
You may think that those two are opposites, but actually they are not, and here’s why:
Independence does not mean that your child should learn to do it alone, it means that she learns to think on her own, and there are times when that thinking process leads her to depend on others.
As you teach your child to think for herself, teach her the value of relying on others. As the Ecclesiastical saying goes, “there is a time for everything.” And that includes a time to be independent and a time to rely on others.
This may be hard to do when the person your child needs to rely on doesn’t seem trustworthy. In the youth sports environment, your child may hesitate to throw the ball to a certain team member because he doesn’t trust that the teammate will catch the ball. But in those moments, your child must learn to rely on his teammate even if he doesn’t feel fully confident in him.
That’s a hard lesson for a child to learn, but what’s the alternative? If your child does not learn to rely on teammates, he will become the sort of athlete who thinks he needs to do it on his own.
You’ve seen those athletes: the ball hog in basketball or soccer, the QB who constantly runs the ball because he doesn’t trust his receivers, or the volleyball player who always goes for the kill instead of passing to someone who is better positioned to put the ball away.
But one thing team sports teach is that one athlete cannot do it alone; she must learn to have confidence in her teammates, even when doubts nag her.
Aside from trusting others, trusting ME is probably one of the biggest mental battles that athletes face. Many struggle to trust that they have what it takes to handle whatever happens.
I am not a mental toughness guru, although as a mom of three grown athletes, I think I’ve learned a lot about helping kids learn to be mentally tough. If you want a certified trainer, check out Craig Sigl, Will Drumright, or James Leath.
But let’s take a minute and talk parent to parent here. I know that you want your kids to grow in confidence, but helping them to learn that is a very frustrating journey. No matter what we try–bribery, comparison, pep talks, threats–to make them act more confident as they play, the bottom line is this: you cannot make your kids more confident, however, you can provide an environment that fosters growth in confidence.
Think of your child’s confidence growth as a plant. You put it in the ground, water it, fertilize it, water it some more, trim it, pull the weeds–but you cannot force the plant to grow. You can only provide the best soil possible.
That’s what you do when it comes to helping your child’s confidence grow. You provide the best soil possible–encouragement, permission to fail, grace when they do fail, good teachers and coaches, positive teammates–for your child’s confidence to sprout and bloom.
One book, one course, one drill–by themselves, they will not infuse your child with confidence. Your child will only learn it as he tries, fails, learns, succeeds, and keeps trying some more. Mental toughness trainers will give your child tools to help, but remember that growing in confidence is a process and the best thing that you can do for your child as they strive to grow is to keep the soil healthy.
Is it Time to Quit Youth Sports?
If youth sports is not helping your child learn confidence, then maybe it’s time to look for an activity that does.
I love youth sports and I loved watching my kids play youth sports. But youth sports is not the end in itself. It is a means to an end, that end being young people who are ready to become strong, independent adults.
If youth sports is not providing that nurturing soil for your child, then find something that does.
Nominate a coach, volunteer, or parent for the November Positive Youth Sports Award!