Parents: Give Your Kids Permission to Make Mistakes

Moving on After Mistakes

Do Parents Expect Athlete to Not Make Mistakes?

Do your sports kids struggle with their composure or game after making mistakes? We receive this question a lot:

A coach asks:

“I coach a U16 girls team, and I find that while they are great athletically, they tend to fold under pressure and crumble under the weight of their mistakes. How do I communicate to them that its okay to make a mistake?”

Learning to cope with mistakes is an important part of improving your kids’ mental game.

Kids who can deal with mistakes will show more composure. They remain calm and in control, no matter the situation. They move on after mistakes without having a big monkey on their back.

You do want kids to understand that mistakes are part of learning and growing… And that mistakes happen at all levels of sports–even the pros make mistakes.

And worrying about mistakes makes kids play tentatively or safe.

As Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Young athletes, in particular, have a hard time coping with goof-ups…

Perfectionists struggle the most with mistakes. They get upset quickly when not playing to their expectations. Once they become frustrated, they tend to dwell on the past mistakes.

In the case of this coach’s question, the athletes are dwelling on mistakes, rather than letting go and moving on, which often leads to more mistakes.

What can you do as a coach or sports parent?

Sports parents need to help athletes manage their expectations. Ask kids to not have high expectations for their performance. Instead, you want them to focus on small objectives to focus on the process, such as to find space in the soccer game or to see the ball early when batting.

In addition, help kids change the way they perceive mistakes. Instead of thinking, “I stink today!”, try to help them focus on their strengths and talents.

When they do make mistakes, your athletes need to accept it and move on. Ask them to use three imaginary “get out of jail free” cards to help them move on after mistakes.

The Positive Coaching Alliance suggests parents show them a “flushing” sign when they goof up, to tell them to let it go–its in the past.

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The Ultimate Sports Parent

Every day, we receive letters from parents like you who want their children and teens to excel in sports. However, these parents can see fear, doubt, and frustration on the faces of their kids who struggle with the “inner” game of sports. But these parents have no idea how to help their kids overcome the worries, expectations and self-defeating thoughts that prevent their young athletes from feeling confident and successful.

You can benefit from our 15-plus years’ of work in sports psychology and sports parenting research. Now, you can tap into our secrets to sports success through a cutting-edge, 14-day program that helps young athletes overcome the top “mental game” challenges that sports parents face—and the top challenges young athletes face.

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