Our 8-year-old daughter’s normal team is very bad but includes most of her friends. In games, not in practice, she tends to play down to their level. She doesn’t play badly but just kind of stops at key moments. This is especially frustrating because we have seen how well she can play with better teams. The coach has told us that he understands and won’t be hurt if we switch her to a better team that will push her to go further. I guess it’s understandable that she doesn’t want to stand out from her friends though it’s difficult for us as parents because we always try to stand out in that way.
We have probably, but unknowingly, put pressure on her by telling her how great she can be. I’m afraid she now has a fear of failure. We have toned down our comments and have encouraged her to set her own goals other than just scoring goals. Since she is only 8, we just want her to have a good time so she keeps on playing.
Here’s our official one question: How can we get Jenny to play hard on her current team (with the not-so-good players)?
Dr. Cohn’s Answer:
I think the most important concept at this age is having fun. If she enjoys it, most likely she will become self-motivated to do her best (with a little help from you and her coach). This is the ideal state: She should want to master the sport for herself instead of doing it for her parents (I often struggle with this balance too with my 8-year-old in tennis).
I do not think you have to talk about “standing out” but doing her best and establishing some mini-goals (such as attempting a certain number of shots each game). Also, you should encourage her to take risks on the field and define these behaviors for her. What exactly should she try to do?
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