This is Part 2 of a 3-part series, Help Your Child Have a Ball in Sports, brought to you by AER, the first Automatic Ball Pump.
Does your child ever struggle with mental focus during a game? With young children, the attention span is understandably short and that’s why sports for small kids must be packed full of fun.
But once your child has been playing for awhile and has started working on developing ball handling skills through repetition and hard work, mental focus becomes an important skill as he strives to take his game to the next level.
What distracts your child? What causes her to lose focus in a game?
There’s a lot going on at youth sports games:
- parents yelling
- teammates joking
- coaches instructing
- sun in your child’s eyes
- frustration at mistakes by your child or a teammate
- heckling by opponents
- fear of failure
The list is endless, really.
Telling your child to just go out and have fun may be said with the best of intentions, but let’s be honest. There’s a lot that could keep that from happening!
How can you help your child learn to focus while playing youth sports?
Keep the Fun in Sports
Let’s start with the obvious: FUN.
It’s been proven that the more fun an athlete is having, the more they will learn and the better they will perform. Fun must be present for peak performance from youth to professional sports. When a child stops having fun and begins to dread practice or competition, it’s time for you as a parent to ask some hard questions. If your child does not enjoy what she is doing, she will lose focus.
Remind Your Child to Compete Against Him/Herself
When an athlete learns to challenge himself and pay more attention to her own performance than she does to the performance of her opponents, she will find it easier to focus. Children should be encouraged to compete against their own potential (give them a name if you’d like: Paul and Paula Potential). Have your child focus on beating “Paul” or “Paula”, competing against herself. When your child plays to better herself instead of beating someone else, she will be more relaxed, have more fun and undoubtedly perform better.
Help Your Child Emphasize Process, Not Outcome
Focusing on the outcome is a big distraction when it causes an athlete to skip over the process. In any peak performance, the athlete is oblivious to outcome and is absorbed in the moment of the game. An outcome focus will distract and tighten up the athlete, resulting in a bad performance.
Yes, Keep Your Eye On The Ball
Men’s Fitness Magazine affirmed what we’ve all heard for years: it’s important to keep your eye on the ball. They cite a study where researchers followed 20 golf novices as they learned how to putt. People who focused on the movement of the ball had better success. While the study was done with golf putting, it’s likely to work for learning motor skills for other sports. The trick is to keep watching the ball to the point of impact. (And be sure that the ball is properly inflated with AER!)
Teach “Centering” Techniques
Centering techniques focus on breathing. When I was pregnant I went to Lamaze classes where I learned breathing techniques that would help me focus and endure the pain of childbirth. Although breathing didn’t dull the pain, it did help get through the labor experience with some sense of control.