Children and teenagers can benefit from sports psychology as much as adults can. Instilling a healthy approach to sport from an early age can provide them with skills that will serve them well later in life.
Whether football, swimming, rugby, basketball, or any other discipline, the physical aspects are only part of what it takes to be a successful athlete. Attitude and mental preparedness are just as important.
Words Are Important
Children should be encouraged to participate in sport for the sheer enjoyment of it. That should be their primary concern. This is not to say that you should not encourage young people to aim to win, but rather that your encouragement should not be based on family pressures or winning at all costs.
The words of encouragement that you use also should not make your children feel as though they are disappointing you or their teammates if they do not achieve their best in a game.
Beware Of Expectations
Expectations can be a dangerous thing. Whether they come from parents or coaches, high expectations can put children under undue pressure, which ultimately can affect their performance and their love of their chosen sport.
Encouraging your children to give of their best when playing is not the same as telling them that you expect them to score a goal or to win the match. Putting in diligence, dedication, and effort is more important that being named the man or woman of the match. Even adult gamers know that it is better to play pokies games for Australians for the fun of it, rather than to try win as much money as they can.
Encourage Manageable Goals
When motivating children to improve their game, help them to focus on goals that are easily obtainable. Instead of telling them to aim for the win every time, encourage them to focus on improving their techniques by offering helpful suggestions. This may be easier for coaches than for parents, although parents can help by encouraging children not to focus on the mistakes that they make.
Give Children Meaningful Support
A stereotype that too many parents make a reality is to be that mom or dad who cannot control their emotions or temper when watching their child play sport. Belittling the child or correcting their performance from the sidelines or from the stands will embarrass them and make them less inclined to participate in future.
The best approach is to keep your negative emotions in check, and to offer encouragement whether your child scores a point for the team or fumbles with the ball.
Be Honest But Encouraging
Like older sportspeople, children appreciate honest feedback – and they will know if you are lying. When giving feedback after a match, give praise where it is due, but do so appropriately. If your child did not have a good game, offer advice and encouragement, rather than making them feel as though it was wasted effort. A few kind words can go a long way.