Young athletes who label themselves with these negative terms are hurting their confidence. They’ve got a little voice in their head that’s constantly putting them down.
And, as we’ve said many times before, confidence is what sports kids need most to feel successful, improve and have fun.
Too often, however, kids fall into this trap—especially if there’s a big focus on winning. If they’re on a losing team, for example, they’re likely to call themselves “losers.”
We recently chatted with the head of a unique program that aims to take the negative labels out of sports…
His name is Jere Johnson, and he runs an elementary sports program for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in which kids play flag football and are only coached by high school athletes. The focus is on being great team mates—not being winners.
“So often the ultimate goal is the win. That’s okay; there will be winners and losers. But from a mental game point of view, kids start to label themselves as ‘I’m a winner’ or ‘I’m a loser,’” says Johnson.
Each week, kids have a project to work on—a character lesson. The idea is to help kids think about more than just winning or losing, says Johnson.
The end result, says Johnson. Sportsmanship is high. Kids are kinder on the playing field. They’re less likely to label themselves in negative terms. They love the league: Ninety-five percent of his athletes return year after year.
If they do choose to go to the local tackle football league, they often come back, saying they didn’t feel as supported as they did playing for Johnson’s league.
If your kids can’t enroll in leagues like Johnson’s, but tend to label themselves in negative ways, there’s lots you can do to help them.
First, help them identify the negative labels they use to describe themselves. They could be “I’m not a pressure player,” or “I’m too small,” or “I always strike out.” These are all confidence busters.
Tell your kids to do whatever they can to rid themselves of these labels. They could write them down on a piece of paper, and tear it up. They could do breathing exercises that involve exhaling and pushing the labels out of their systems.
Next, ask your kids to write down three positive labels that describe their efforts in sports. These could be “I’m a great team player,” “I know how to nab those rebounds,” or “I’m quick on my feet.”
Tell your athletes to use these labels as often as possible–even when they’re talking to other kids or parents.
Want to learn more about how you can help your kids avoid negative labels and boost their confidence? At Kids’ Sports Psychology, we’ve got lots of resources for you. They include:
–>E-books, some written specifically for sports parents, and some written specifically for sports kids, that explain how to boost confidence in sports;
–>Informative audio interviews like the one we conducted with Johnson;
–>Videos for young athletes that tell them how to identify confidence busters and take action to improve their performance and confidence.
–>Our ‘Inside The Minds of Young Athletes” Series, video interviews with young athletes, plus Dr. Cohn’s analysis of their mental game.
That’s not all. We’ve got articles, Q and As, and much more!
Here’s what folks have to say about our work:
“I really do encourage your work. It’s great seeing people out there trying to see things from the mental side of the game and how important that is.”
–Kirk Mango, author, sports parent and former Div. I national champion in gymnastics
Help your sports kids make the most of their physical talents:
Dr. Patrick Cohn and Lisa Cohn
P.S. If you are an exclusive member of Kids’ Sports Psychology, you can listen to over 60 expert youth sports and sport psychology interviews including the interview with Johnson. See them all here: