Helping Sports Kids Build Confidence When Injured
When kids experience sports injuries severe enough to keep them from playing or participating, they tend to have fairly dramatic reactions, said Dr. Jorge Gomez, Pediatric Sports Medicine Physician at Texas Children’s Hospital in a podcast interview.
As we’ve said here at the Ultimate Sports Parent in the past, injuries can hurt kids’ confidence. And if their self-image is wrapped up in playing sports, injuries can really hurt them psychologically.
That’s why it’s important to tend to their emotional state after an injury.
“While an older person may have more of a depressed reaction to the situation, a kid is more likely to act out with uncharacteristic anger,” said Gomez.
Kids tend to compartmentalize better than adults do, he says.
“For example, when an adult is in a serious injury situation, they will tend to withdraw and get depressed, whereas children really can only take so much grief at one time. So they will look sad for a while, but eventually, they will appear to be fine, until they fall apart again later, because they aren’t getting over their emotional pain as much as they are successfully avoiding it.”
He stressed that communicating with your sports children is essential to overcoming any mental effects of injury.
Allowing your sports kids space to talk about their feelings will expedite the healing process and make them feel more supported, he says.
“One of the things I tell parents is children need structure. So I encourage parents to keep doing what they have been doing, stick to their routine because children derive a lot of comfort from these things.”
Meanwhile, kids need to focus on the process and understand that healing takes time.
Often, injured kids will get excited about playing again, only to be disappointed that their performance does not match the prior performance level.
“This is natural, and as a sports parent, your job is to temper these overheated expectations,” he said.
While injured athletes are recovering, they should practice mental game strategies, he suggested.
“This is a great way to spend some of your time while recovering – work on relaxation techniques and positive imagery techniques.”
He also stressed working on building up physical strength in areas the athletes hadn’t previously focused on.
“Look at things you weren’t working on. If you’ve got a leg injury, work on your flexibility and upper body strength,” he said.
Feeling stronger both mentally and physically will help boost kids’ confidence when it’s time to start playing or performing again.
Listen to the podcast with Dr. Jorge Gomez here:
Learn Mental Game Lessons to Help Young Athletes With Their Pregame Prep!
Young athletes and their parents and coaches tell us that sports kids often struggle with these pregame mental game challenges:
- They feel pressure to excel from expectations they feel from others
- They focus too much on the outcome instead of the process
- They fail to take charge of their confidence before the compete
- They don’t trust in their skills when they go from practice to competition
- They hang on to mistakes and dwell in them in competition
- They worry too much about what others think about their performance
- They tighten up and play safe when they feel pressure to succeed
- They interpret pregame jitters as harmful to their performance
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Do your young athletes:
- Criticize themselves often after making mistakes?
- Lose confidence after working with a negative coach?
- Freeze up and look scared when faced with competitive pressure?
- Perform like stars in practice but freeze up or play tentatively during games or competitions?
If so, check out The Ultimate Sports Parent!
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