How To Teach Sports Kids To Focus on What They Can Control
Do your sports kids worry too much before and during competitions?
When they worry, they’re often trying to control issues related to performance that are outside of their direct control.
These issues include getting injured, being benched by a coach, playing against a higher ranked opponent and competing in poor weather conditions.
For example, when kids focus on how well an opponent is playing (which is outside of their control), it can spark anxiety and take the focus off of what kids should be concentrating on–themselves and their game.
Kids need to learn this important lesson: They should focus on controlling what’s controllable.
This may seem like a minor issue. But it’s important; controlling the controllables gives kids a sense that they have an impact on their destiny and that their performance is not dictated by outside forces.
Remind young athletes that they can’t control how many minutes their coach plays them in a game. But they can control their effort and focus during practice. They can control their attitude.
Even when kids are suffering from an injury, they’re still in control of their attitude, their ability to relax and their overall perspective.
Here’s an example: The status of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is uncertain due to the pandemic. But athletes can embrace a “control the controllables” mindset.
Nicole Forrester, a 2008 Olympic Canadian high jumper and mental performance coach, has helped prepare Canadian athletes for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. In this effort, she emphasizes the importance of controlling the controllables and letting everything else go.
“What can’t you control? You can’t control the virus, you can’t control access to a facility, and you can’t control whether the Olympics is a certainty or not, but you treat it as if it is. But you can control your nutrition; you can control your sleep,” she said.
It’s empowering for sports kids to stay focused on the issues they can control.
Focusing on the controllables gives meaning to all the hours kids spent training, the sacrifices they made as athletes and the dedication of pushing themselves to achieve their goals.
One tip for controlling the controllables: Kids should recognize when they’re blinded by their circumstances and then take action to shift their perspective. To do this, they can write down as many variables of performance that are under their control. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant they may seem.
For example, sports kids can control their thinking, how they react to challenges, their preparation and their nutrition.
They can’t control the weather conditions, the field conditions, officials, judges or their opponents.
Help kids stop focusing on things they can’t control. Help them recognize when this is happening, and refocus their thoughts. This will allow them to feel empowered. It will also boost their confidence and success in sports.
Related Articles for Young Athletes:
- Help Your Athletes Close out Competitions
- Young Athletes Need these Two Mental Skills for Success
- How Young Athletes Can Use Mental Imagery to Boost Performance
Help Kids in Sports Kick Perfectionism
Nearly every athlete struggles with some form of perfectionism or fear of failure. Kids who look like stars in practice will often choke up or under perform during games or competition.
Other athletes expect too much of themselves—then get frustrated when they don’t meet their high expectations.
Or they’re extremely hard on themselves. In all cases, this causes young athletes to play it safe. They refuse to take the important risks that help them excel and improve their confidence. Suddenly, they’re held back by fear, indecision, and hesitation.
Sports parents and coaches who contact us are bewildered. They watch kids go through this cycle and feel as if they have no clue about how to help their kids.
In fact, rather than supporting their young athletes’ mental game, they often pour salt in the wound, saying and doing things that cause their kids to freeze up even more and become more frustrated, more tense and less productive in sports.
There’s nothing worse than helplessly watching your young athletes fall into the same negative pattern again and again—without knowing what to do about it! It’s so frustrating to stand by while your physically talented athletes lose confidence, wondering how you can help them!
Then you try your best to help, only to discover you have made the problem worse. Your young athletes pressure themselves more, freeze up even more, lose their effectiveness and become more frustrated. They may even blame you for making them feel more pressured.
Now, you can learn how to help young athletes overcome the difficult cycle of perfectionism, fear of failure and loss of confidence. You can stop guessing about what to do and say to your athlete!
Our program: “Sports Parents’ Top Dilemma: Helping Young Athletes Kick Perfectionism and Fear of Failure,” will walk you through the problem and arm you with practical solutions you can start implementing today.
Makes your role as a sports parent more enjoyable and easier! We tell you how to help your young athletes:
- Let go of mistakes more quickly
- Accept feedback better
- Stop criticizing themselves
- Perform more freely
- Think more creatively
- Stop worrying about what others’ think
- Dramatically improve their performance and attitude in sports
- Improve their confidence in sports
- They, too, will have more fun and reap more rewards.