Ten Strategies to Build Unstoppable Confidence in Youth Athletes – Part 3

By Craig Sigl

In this third part of the series, you are going to discover that, quite possibly, the best thing we can do to foster confidence in kids is to eliminate what I call “Confidence Killers.”

I have a firm belief from my experience in working inside the minds of hundreds and hundreds of kids personally that confidence building happens naturally when there are no blocks stopping it.

So, I’m going to switch it up on you by starting out telling you about the things you’ve got to STOP doing that kill confidence-building in kids.

Strategy # 7. Stop giving your kid encouragement, praise and cheers ONLY when they do well in their performing.

Most of us adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. If I didn’t see them for years now, I would have too. Here’s what you need to understand:

When the young performer does well, and you cheer and praise you are giving your approval of what they have just done.

When the kid does not do well, and looks over at the bench or sideline at you, and sees your disappointed face and body posture, the child gets the message of Disapproval.

As sports fans and audiences, we are conditioned to cheer when things go right and go “Awww” when they go wrong for our team. Now, this is totally fine when you’re watching your favorite pro sports team. Those players are not your children and they can take it. But not your kids. They subconsciously take it, literally, as a form of rejection, and there’s nothing worse for a kid than getting that from their parent.

What you need to do is be passionately positive even when nothing exciting is happening…but especially when the child has a poor performance of any kind. You do not want your child coming away from a game, meet or match with the idea that your approval is dependent on their performance.

You may just be showing your disappointment in empathy for them but that’s not how they are taking it. This is a huge confidence killer. Here’s the best encouragement you can give to a kid so that natural confidence and resilience can be built: “I love watching you play.” Default to that and you can’t go wrong.

Strategy #8. Stop telling your kid how they could have done better on the car ride home.

Or otherwise giving unsolicited advice or questioning at any time right after a game/event of poor performance or a loss. Most often, the best thing you can do as a sports parent, is nothing or at most, “I loved watching you play.”

Kids can be very resilient and grow that muscle…if we let them. For example, If you ever watch little kids play in the sandbox together and one of them upsets the other, there’s crying and finger pointing for a few minutes and then after a short time, the kids are right back in the sandbox playing again like nothing happened.

Kids have a much greater natural ability to let go of difficult events faster than us adults. We learn how to hold on to things as we get older because we have all this complex thinking that requires full mental resolution on things.

Kids don’t have that yet and can develop resiliency through difficult events, if allowed to. That’s what we should want for them for their participation in sports – life skills such as resilience, right?

To do that, Kids often need the space and freedom to express, if they want to, and then process the difficulty in their own way. Let them. If a kid is holding on to the loss or poor performance and it’s effects for more than a day, then you can jump in and ask if he or she would like to talk or would like some help with their game to improve on the problem.

But, stop jumping in and saving your kid or teaching them how to do it right next time at the worst time, right after the event. That’s what we have coaches for. Resilience is the foundation for confidence.

Craig has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the mental side of their game. He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 30,000 athletes in his emails. Discover Craig’s programs for mental toughness and confidence building at: www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com

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