How To Handle Positive Encouragement
Hi, Dr. Cohn here from The Ultimate Sports Parent.
This past weekend I took my 9-year-old daughter to play her 4th tennis tournament as a rookie. She played two matches total. She lost the first match, but stayed very composed.
Afterward, I did everything by the book (our book anyway)…
I stayed positive and reinforced what she did well after she lost the first match. I did not to show any negative emotion.
I observed the cool down period. I avoided talking about the first match for a couple of hours.
Then, over lunch, I asked her what she thought about the match and what she could improve on during the next match.
She confirmed exactly what I was thinking. She said she was out-powered and she did not move well. She felt flat-footed, as if she wanted her opponent to hit every ball right to her!
But I bit my lip during the match and did not say a word – positive or negative. I know that’s what she prefers.
So, this is when I put my sports parenting skills into action…
Over lunch, I told her nicely how she could move better in the next match.
I focused on improvement and not on mistakes.
Get to the center of the court quickly. Drop back when the ball is coming deep into her end. Be ready to hit the ball. All positive and appropriate suggestions… so I thought.
She responded very well in the second match. She looked like a different player than in the first match. She moved very well and played well. She won a tight match 9-7 after being down 2-5 early. I thought it was a nice comeback.
I was very pleased to see her move so well in the match and told her so. Winning was secondary to the fact that she moved well and played to her ability.
After the match I asked her what changed from the first match.
“I did not want to disappoint you again, so I tried harder,” she said.
My heart sunk.
I picked up on her comment quickly and told her she should play for herself and not worry about what I think or worry about disappointing me. I asked her about why she felt this way.
“You told me what I needed to do better at lunch,” she said.
“You did not have to tell me anything. I know what I had to do to improve,” she continued.
Wow…. I asked how I should handle it the next time she plays.
“Just ask me what I think I should do next time. I know what I did wrong. I know what to do better.”
What a great lesson for me as a sports parent.
I thought I was modeling The Ultimate Sports Parent, but I learned that my young athlete can construe even the most positive instruction as demanding, disappointing, or criticism that she is not good enough.
I am interested in your comments (or challenges) about how you interact with your kids after a game.
Please post your comments or questions about this article below.
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