My son is an-11-year-old young athlete and very talented (naturally at youth basketball and any other sport he plays). His father coaches him and they have had some rocky times over the last few years. It is a mental game with my son — and is very frustrating for his father, who has tried everything. We will have really good youth sports games if the competition is low. But if our son decides it is too hard or he misses his first shot he will completely shut down. He’ll just jog up the court and get the ball to every one else. He is so hard on himself and we continue to tell him just keep trying don’t give up. We have tried several approaches, some good and some probably not so good.
My husband no longer yells as a youth coach but sits him down until he is out of the mood. My husband is also very frustrated and sad because he doesn’t understand what to do. Then we will have a great tournament, and then my son goes back to shutting down. What youth sports psychology methods can we try besides the normal everyday methods? As a sports parent, I have tried encouraging. He has the same confidence issue in school but as a team with the school we have worked through this and he has greatly improved. Now we need help with his mental game in youth sports because he is so talented. I know we need to keep going as sports parents but in a positive way. He does love youth sports, but is just so hard on himself. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. We have had him coached by other coaches and it works for a while then he falls into the same mental game attitude.
The Ultimate Sports Parent:
It appears your son is protecting himself from pain by not trying when he is losing or making mistakes. There is a concept in tennis called “tanking.” Tanking is when a young athlete stops trying because he can later say that he lost because he did not try. This is easier for some young athletes to stomach when losing.
He also has very high expectations for his performance, which may be the start of it all. He should not expect to be perfect and error-free in youth sports. This is unrealistic thinking and prevents him from being confident when he does not perform up to his expectations.
I think you need to address the expectations as well as give him strategies for letting go of errors and focusing on what’s important for execution.
We cover most of many of these issues in the Ultimate Sports Parent Workbook program:
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