Strategies for Supporting Your Child’s Growth and Resilience in Athletics
As a coach or parent of a young athlete, you know that not every competition will go according to plan. Sometimes, despite their best efforts, a child may not perform as well as they would like. In these moments, it’s important to offer support and encouragement and to choose your words carefully. Here are four suggestions of what to say to a child who didn’t perform well in an athletics event:
1. “I’m proud of you for trying your best.”
Even if your child didn’t perform well or achieve their goal, if they tried hard it’s important to acknowledge the effort they put in. By recognizing their hard work, you can help build their confidence and resilience, which will benefit them in future competitions. For example, you might say, “I know you were disappointed with how you performed today, but I want you to know that I’m so proud of how much effort you put in.”
2. “Mistakes happen. They’re a chance to learn and improve.”
It’s easy for young athletes to get down on themselves after a poor performance. It’s important to remind them that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. There are learnings from every performance – good and not-so-good. By reframing their disappointment as an opportunity to grow, you can help them develop a growth mindset and a more positive attitude toward competition. For example, you might say, “I know you’re disappointed with how you did today, but remember that everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them and come back stronger next time.”
3. “I’m here for you, no matter what.”
It’s crucial to let a child know that they have your support, regardless of their performance. By creating a safe and supportive environment, you can help them feel more comfortable taking risks and pushing themselves in competition. For example, a parent might say, “I know this wasn’t the result you were hoping for, but I want you to know that I’m here for you no matter what. I love you and I’m proud of you.”
4. “Let’s focus on what you did well.”
While it’s important to acknowledge a child’s disappointment, it’s also important to help them see the positives in their performance. By highlighting their strengths and successes, you can help them build confidence and motivation for future performances. For example, you might say, “I know you’re disappointed with how you did today, but let’s talk about what you did well. Your run-up is improving in the long jump, and you finished strong in your sprints.”
The language and demeanour of parents and coaches use can have a significant impact on a young athlete’s motivation, confidence, and resilience. By choosing your words carefully and focusing on support, encouragement, and growth, you can help a child develop a healthy attitude towards competition. Remember to focus on effort and progress rather than just results, and to keep things in perspective. With the right support, your child can learn and grow from every competition, regardless of the result.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.