Parents, coaches and the team here at Competitive Edge play a vital role in nurturing young athletes’ self-confidence. This includes the confidence to try a new sport, improve in a current sport, try a new position, join a new team and perform as consistently in practice as on gameday. Here are five ways you can help build self-confidence in your young athletes.
Tip #1: Encourage Athletes to Do Their Best, Not Be the Best
It is easy for athletes of all ages to compare themselves to others, such as the star players on the team. However, we must coach young athletes to improve upon their current skill sets. While it is not uncommon to highlight other players’ form or technique while coaching, make it clear that each athlete needs to find what works for them. Coaches and parents must also be mindful not to compare athletes individually or in front of the group. Praise a job well-done, but do not compare.
Tip #2: Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is the key to developing the confidence required to try a new sport, improve in a current sport or perform with consistency on gameday. To help young athletes celebrate their progress, start with small achievable goals and implement a process for measuring their growth. For example, Tiger Woods often starts his practice with 100 three-foot putts.
Since there’s not much time for one-on-one skills training during practices, a few pre-seasons and year-round training sessions can help prepare students for tryouts. You can also check out our confidence-building camps and clinics.
Tip #3: Focus Less On Winning
Every athlete wants to win, but when winning becomes the goal, the love and joy of the sport become secondary. Instead, encourage each athlete to identify why they prefer their sport of choice. Then, work on individual fundamentals and the team-building required to excel. It’s not always the team with the strongest players that wins, but the strongest team. And, doing your best and losing to a worthy component should be celebrated.
Tip #4: Positive Coaching
There are many different coaching styles out there. No matter their style, coaches must find a way to balance pushing kids to the next level, without eroding their self-esteem. Luckily, the “shame and blame” method of coaching is used far less today than in generations past. It’s been replaced by positive coaching methods, where constructive criticism is viewed as an opportunity, not a weakness. It’s not about being perfect every time, but about steady progress and how quickly your student athlete can get their head back in the game.
Tip #5: Prioritize Fun
There are a variety of reasons young athletes sign up for extracurricular activities, one of which is to have fun! If practice becomes stressful, young athletes won’t continue to sign up season after season. Yes, athletes must be challenged, but age-appropriate fun must be worked into the drills, practices and time spent together outside of practice. Don’t underestimate the end of season party or heading for pizza or ice cream after the game.
Parents and coaches must also be mindful that confidence levels in young athletes may ebb and flow and may change for better or worse with each new season, team and coach.
Competitive Edge aims to develop the “complete athlete” using performance sports training in Woodbridge, VA and surrounding areas. Members are able to enhance their athletic performance and develop a competitive edge to excel in their desired sport.