There are numerous benefits for kids to participate in sports. Like having fun, creating
friendships, increasing fitness, working as a team, setting goals, building skills and
confidence etc. Basically it is a great way to help kids to develop lots of skills to use, not just
in sport, but in life in general. However for parents it can be challenging to keep their kids
motivated and engaged especially when setbacks happen or their confidence takes a knock,
or the fun gets replaced by pressure and suddenly your child wants to give up something
you know that they love to do.
Here are 5 tips to help parents to help keep their kids engaged in sport and
help them to build on their skills and confidence.
1.Allow your child to choose
Allow them to choose the sport or activity they do. Choice is very important because by encouraging your child to have a say in the
matter they will naturally be more motivated to go in the long run. Finding places
that allow your kids to try a sport out for a few weeks, before signing them up and
paying for a longer term membership can be a good idea. It allows your
child to try a few different types of sports so that they can discover for themselves
the sport that they enjoy and love the most.
2. Listen to them. When fear and doubt get in the way, listen, empathise and work out what to do
Sometimes kids can scare themselves with the stories they tell themselves in their
heads. It could be they are afraid to join a dance group because there are too many
people. Or it could be they are afraid of making a mistake. There are all sorts of fears
that kids can face. Ask them what specifically are they afraid of, so you can get a clear
picture of what is happening and how to help them.
It is important to listen to their fears and empathise with the feelings they are
experiencing. Once they feel heard they are more likely to be open to either letting
the fear go, or working out what they want to do next. I find it useful to explain that
FEAR can be False Evidence Appearing Real and help them to see the truth in that
statement. And when they see the stories in their heads can be like a scary movie
they start to realise they can make a new choice to change the channel and play a
nicer more encouraging movie instead. It can also be useful to share with them
examples and stories of how you handle your own fears.
3.Focus on fun
Sport is meant to be fun. And when we lose sight of that and think it is all about the
winning then that just adds pressure which usually backfires as performance gets affected negatively and confidence goes down. I know what it is like to be competitive and have a huge desire to win. And while that drive can bring energy to succeed what I have learned over the years is if we keep our focus only on winning we actually miss out on the journey to get there. And when things go wrong along the way the added pressure affects performance in a negative way and we end up creating the opposite of what we desire. I feel it is much more useful to remind our kids to remember to go out and have fun. When kids have fun they will naturally feel happier in themselves and when you feel good on the inside, performance improves. Encourage your kids to understand from the outset that sport is a game to be enjoyed. And that winning and losing will be part of the experience. And if they keep their focus on fun and enjoying the game as it’s happening and playing full out to the best of their ability they will naturally increase their chance of winning along the way and be able to handle losing in a positive way knowing they gave it their all and did the best that they could. I think it is also important to encourage them to be proud of themselves for having the courage to partake and put themselves out there in the first place.
and an attitude of “There’s no failure only feedback”.
Developing your skills through practice is a necessary part of any sport. And the
beauty of this is every time your skill improves and gets better it brings with it a
confidence boost and feeling good about yourself on the inside. Practicing with your
kids, is also an opportunity to have fun as a family. Of course, learning something new
can take time, and patience, it can also bring frustration when something seems
impossible to master. However by encouraging your kids to have an attitude of
“There’s no failure only feedback” and asking them; what do they need to do
differently the next time, then this can help them to be kinder to themselves on the
inside. As well as help them to see that set-backs are an opportunity to grow, rather
than feeling bad about making a mistake. Explaining to your kids that FAIL can also be
seen as First Attempt In Learning – this attitude may help increase motivation to keep going
rather than giving up.
5.Teach goal setting
Help your kids to set small, easy, achievable goals for themselves so that they set
themselves up for success. This helps to give them a specific direction and
something to aim for, it also helps build momentum and increase their confidence.
Try this – for the next week they practice using the above mentioned phrase; ‘There’s no failure, only feedback’
attitude every day in school, or at home, or with their friends as well as in
sport. Whenever they remember, ask them to notice if it was useful for them.
Or get them to focus on one specific aspect of a skill they are trying to master and
practice with them where possible.
There is nothing like achieving small goals that moves you in the direction of a bigger goal or dream; this builds confidence, encourages motivation and
increases self-esteem. Celebrating their wins with them also adds to the feel good
These are just some of the things that we as parents can do to support and
encourage our kids, on how to keep growing and improving their performance in sport.
Personally I wish I had of known more about the role the mind plays, when it comes to sport at a younger age.
If I’d known and understood the old saying:
“Our mind can be our greatest enemy or our greatest friend” here are a few things thing that would have been different for me, you may recognise them:
1. I would have performed better more frequently
2. I’d have had more fun and enjoyment
3. Felt more confidence and pride in myself regardless of the result
4. I would have stayed motivated regardless of setbacks
5. I’d have been more kind to myself and others.
6. I’d have handled things more calmly when I made a mistake or when something out of my control happened.
The inner joy and confidence that comes with learning to use your mind as your friend
is a skill that serves you for all of your life. Personally, it saddens me to see
someone giving up something they love because their mind is getting in their way.
At The Confidence Clinic we love nothing more than helping your kids and teens to
learn how to use their mind as their friend so they can achieve anything they set their mind
to in Sport and any other area of their life that they may need help with.
By Carol Maher (nee McGuinness)
Life Coach for Children & Teen
The Confidence Clinic