Parents have a deep impact on their child’s confidence. No matter the situation: home, school or sports – parental involvement and support is key.
When parents place expectations on young athletes, even with words as well-meaning as “Go out there and score three goals today,” kids can take these expectations on as their own. If they don’t achieve them, their confidence will likely be hurt. They also might even feel as if they let you down.
Also, when parents have goals for kids that are different than the kids’ goals, it can hurt the athletes’ enjoyment, confidence and success. For example, some parents hope their athletes will earn college scholarships through sports—but their young athletes simply want to play to have fun with friends.
Putting advanced pressure on your kids to play harder, score more often, and rack up wins because you want your kids to earn scholarships rarely helps build kids’ confidence. It’s just the opposite. Your young athletes will focus too much on achievement and striving to meet your expectations.
Overly enthusiastic parents can also affect kids’ view of sports. When parents yell too much from the sidelines, argue with refs or correct coaches, young athletes often feel embarrassed. This undermines their enjoyment of sports.
It’s also critical to focus on the positives after a game. A positive attitude on your part will help build and maintain your young athlete’s confidence.
Too often, well-meaning sports parents and coaches, eager to help kids’ improve, focus too much on the mistakes young athletes make. They often do this during the drive home after a game.
They might say, “I can’t believe you missed that shot at the buzzer” or “Did you know that if you had passed to Johnny during the last minute of the second quarter, it would have been an assist for sure? He was wide open!” Another possible comment: “Your stance was really out of whack today. You need to bend those knees.”
Focusing on your kids’ mistakes—especially right after a game—is a sure-fire way to sink your young athletes’ confidence. They don’t need to hear about their terrible stance; bad court vision, or the stupid way they tripped during the third quarter.
If you focus on such negatives, they’ll likely start focusing on them, too. That can lead to negative self-talk and low self-confidence.
Instead of concentrating on what your young athlete did wrong, you need to keep your post-game or post-performance comments brief and positive.
If your young athletes didn’t score, surely you can find positive things to say about their performance. Perhaps they were great team players. Perhaps they looked like they were having fun. Maybe their passes were always right-on.
Pointing out such positive highlights will help boost your athletes’ confidence and help them realize their potential.
In addition to focusing on the positives, parents should be careful about what they say about the coach’s techniques. It’s not helpful to tell young athletes that their coaches aren’t good at what they do.
It’s not a good idea to say something like, “Why did he put Rachel in during the fourth quarter when he you would have done much better?” Such statements undermine kids’ confidence and trust in their coaches. In order to perform well, they need to trust and believe in their coaches.