Sports – at any level – is a game of confidence. Kids who have tons of confidence usually will rise above the competition.
Under pressure, these kids’ performance will thrive because of their strong belief in their ability.
We receive many emails from concerned sports parents stating that their kids struggle with confidence and self-doubt…
Parents are concerned that their kids focus too much on the negative, express negative comments about their performance, are generally pessimistic, and disqualify any real positives.
As you might experience with your sports kids, confidence can be fragile or fleeting. If your child has fragile confidence, one mistake (at the start of a game) can pop the thin confidence bubble and lead your kid into the mental shackles of doubt.
What undermines kids’ confidence in sports? Here is our short list:
- Self-doubt about one’s ability
- Self-critical behavior or negative self-talk
- Focusing too much on errors
- High, strict expectations about performance
- The need to be perfect in sports, but can’t
- Making comparisons to other athletes
- Overly critical coaches or parents
- Attributing success to luck and not ability
Another confidence buster for your kids is when they focus too much on the negative and can’t accept positive comments from others. In psychology, they call this “disqualifying the positive” – a so-called cognitive distortion.
Athletes who disqualify the positive perceive good performances as flukes. They hang onto a negative view of the world. They have trouble focusing on what they did well. Have you ever complemented your child on a job well done and your child responds with “I was lucky”?
At KidsSportsPsychology.com, we encourage parents to help kids learn how to accentuate the positive and learn from mistakes…
We want parents and coaches to begin a post-game conversation by making two positive comments about their son’s or daughter’s game. You encourage them to focus on the positive and not mistakes.
Pick out two simple areas you can complement your son or daughter about… For example, “You really hustled on defense today and made some great stops.”
First, you are more likely to get your player’s attention by starting with a couple of positive comments. Second, you teach kids to remember the good plays and not dwell on their mistakes.
Part of human nature is to be self-critical after a game – even when your child performed well. One step in building kids confidence is to help them see through their own self-criticism.
You want kids to appreciate what needs to improve, but not dwell on their shortcomings after a performance.
We have a ton of other confidence-boosting tips for sports kids, parents, and youth coaches waiting for you at Kids Sports Psychology:
Patrick J. Cohn
p.s. If you want all our confidence-boosting strategies for sports kids, you should jump over to Kids’ Sports Psychology and take the free tour of our new program to boost young athletes’ mental skills for sports: