Helping Young Athletes Stay Confident and Composed After Setbacks

Composed Sports Kids

Do your sports kids hate to make mistakes?

Do they kick themselves over and over after a turnover, bad pass or loss?

Worse, do they start playing tentatively, rather than giving it their all?

Are you wondering how you can possibly help them change their attitude about losses, mistakes and other setbacks?

It’s common for kids to berate themselves after making mistakes. Too often, they hold onto mistakes and other setbacks—such as getting yelled at by a coach, having a bad game or getting a bad call from a ref.

They dwell on these setbacks, rather than letting them go and moving onto the next play.

Dwelling on setbacks and mistakes lowers kids’ confidence and hurts their performance.


They start to avoid making mistakes, they start playing “safe,” they stop taking the essential risks that help them play well and grow as players.

But here’s the good news

You as sports parents and coaches can help kids cope with setbacks. You can teach them how to remain confident and how to “go for it” when they’re tempted to step back and play it safe.

First of all, remind your young athletes that if they experienced no mistakes or setbacks, they likely wouldn’t learn as much…

We like to say that if ice skaters don’t fall down, they’re not learning. Falling down shows they’re trying out new things. It’s true of any sport. Kids need to try out new strategies and moves, make mistakes and learn and grow from them.

Let’s say your sports kid makes a bad judgement before making a pass. He assumes that his teammate will be in a certain position and place, but doesn’t communicate to the team-mate that he plans to pass to him. He passes, and the pass doesn’t make it to the player.

He can yell at himself, tell himself he’s a horrible passer, and stop passing. Or he can think about what went wrong and try again. For example. he might decide that this time he needs to communicate better with his teammate.

Obviously, you want your sports kids to embrace the second mindset. Figure out what went wrong and try again.

Sometimes kids don’t have time to think about a mistake and figure out what went wrong. In that case, they need to make a mental note of it so they can figure out what went wrong after the game.

It’s critical, however, to let go of the goof-up and move on. They need to focus on the next shot, pass, pitch or play as soon as possible.

As sports parents and coaches, you can help your kids stay confident by helping them understand that they will make some mistakes. It’s part of being human and part of being in sports.

You can also help them process mistakes so they don’t dwell on them and become frustrated. You can do this by helping them let go of the idea that they have to be perfect and should not make any mistakes.

Tell your kids that the sooner they can let go of mistakes or setbacks, the sooner they can move on and contribute to the team.

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The Composed Sports Kid

“The Composed Sports Kid” audio and workbook digital download program for young athletes and their parents or coach helps kids cope with frustration and anger in sports. Help your sports kids learn how to manage expectations and let go of mistakes so they can keep their head in the game. 

The Composed Sports Kid system is really two programs in one–one program to train parents and coaches how to help their kids practice composure, and one program that teaches young athletes–ages 6 to 13–how to improve composure, let go of mistakes quickly, have more self-acceptance, and thus enjoy sports more

1 thought on “Helping Young Athletes Stay Confident and Composed After Setbacks”

  1. As a father of 2, and a youth sports coach, I’m alarmed by the lack of emotional control many of our youth athletes display. Of course children will sometimes react poorly to what happens in a game, but right there in that moment is the coaches’ opportunity to prepare their players for real life.
    I have observed countless outbursts and episodes of self-pity in my years on the baseball field and basketball court; players striking out and throwing their bat or helmet, teammates yelling at one another for making mistakes, a shooter celebrating their 3-pointer and forgetting to play defense, players missing opportunities to succeed because they are focused on what they feel was a bad call 5 minutes ago, children so overwhelmed by failure they are brought to tears and are unable to focus on their next task.
    As coaches, we have an obligation to teach these children how to deal with success and failure. Preparing them to be balanced, contributing members of society is a far more important task than teaching them how to hit a baseball.
    If a player is struggling with their emotions, remove them from the game until they regain their focus and control of their emotions. After they are able to process what’s taken place, they can return to the game as better player and person, hopefully with new coping mechanisms. Allowing them to remain in the game is a disservice to the player and their teammates. We can’t change what already happened, and you can’t help your team in the moment if you’re focused on the past.
    Most of us sign our children up for sports to have fun. I think we would all agree that it’s a lot easier to have fun when everybody around us is upbeat. As coaches, we have the opportunity create an upbeat environment. If we reach that goal when our children compete, we have won, regardless of the score.

    Darryl Ware
    New Fairfield, CT

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