Helping Young Athletes Learn Life Lessons
Chris Meyer coached his son’s team for nine years, from kindergarten through 8th grade….
In an interview, author of “Four Months… and a Lifetime,” explains how he focused on teaching the young athletes life lessons.
Many youth sports coaches focus on a specific age group–coaching only second graders, for example.
But Chris Meyer coached his son’s basketball team for nine years straight, and most of the boys remained on that team the entire time, from kindergarten through eighth grade.
In the interview, Meyer discusses how he focused on helping kids learn life lessons and also boost their confidence.
The most important message he taught the kids, he says, is to be passionate about sports. He did this by sharing his own passion. “In my experience, with my competitive bunch, kids really feed off that,” he says.
The biggest confidence buster for kids is pressure, says Meyer.
His individual team members didn’t change the way they responded to pressure, he says. As eighth graders, they dealt with it the same way they coped in second grade.
“The children in kindergarten and first grade had the same personalities in eighth grade. Aggressive kids didn’t become soft or calm and the calm kids didn’t become aggressive. That’s who they are organically.”
Confidence challenges show themselves differently in kids depending on the situation, says Meyer. “In a close game, you would see kids freeze up a little, not be as smooth, forget the things they all had been taught,” Meyer says.
When kids started panicking during close games, he approached the bench and talked to them.
He also focused on the small wins. He reminded players, for example, that three years earlier they couldn’t hit a backboard. But now they could easily make layups. “Small victories are so important, especially for the younger players,” says Meyer.
Over the years, Meyer learned to focus less on winning and more on being present with the players. “Be with your children,” he advises. “I don’t think there’s anything more they truly love. The sports are incidental. They feel you care because you’re there, you take the time and give them the time of day.
“I wish I could be the guy I was after my third son with my first son,” he adds.
You can listen to the sports parent interview with Meyer below:
The Confident Sports Kid Audio Program
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In this program, sports parents and coaches learn about how to better communicate with young athletes in ways that boost kids’ confidence. For example, we tell parents how they should “mentally warm up” before their athletes’ games and avoid committing typical sports parenting no-nos.
For sports kids, we identify classic confidence busters. Most kids struggle with one or more of these challenges, which include:
- High expectations (“I need to make four 3-pointers and block five shots today”)
- Negative labels (“I’m too skinny to play football”);
- “I can’t” statements (“I can’t score when I play against this team”).
- Goofy beliefs (“I only score if I eat granola bars for breakfast or wear a red headband”).
- Doubt (Can I really make that shot?)
- Worries about what everyone thinks (“Coach is going to bench me if I make a mistake. My friend Sarah is here watching and may not like how I look.”)