“Too often in life, something happens and we blame other people for us not being happy or satisfied or fulfilled. So the point is, we all have choices, and we make the choice to accept people or situations or to not accept situations”—Tom Brady
Most parents are productive contributors to their children’s well-being in sports. But in today’s competitive and fast faced football game the task of the parents is pretty challenging.
Today’s young athletes are smarter, tougher and braver than the previous generation. Nurturing of the young athlete also plays an important role for their early development. As research on sports psychology for football shows that the wiser the nurturing, the smarter the kid.
All parents identify with their children to some extent and thus want them to do well. Unfortunately, in some cases, the degree of identification becomes excessive, and the child becomes an extension of the parent’s ego.
When parents over-identify with their child’s sport performance, they begin to define their own self-worth in terms of their children’s successes or failures.
Some parents thus become “winners” or “losers” through their children, and the pressure placed on the young football mind can be extreme.
When parental love and approval depend on how well their children perform, sports are bound to be stressful.
Scientific evidence indicates that an important determinant of youth sport outcomes lies in the relationship that exists between coaches and parents.
Additionally, sports psychology for football research has shown that a relatively brief educational intervention can enhance the experiences of both athletes and parents alike.
According to Frank Smoll, Professor of Sports Psychology at the University of Washington, parents play a pivotal role in determining whether sport is a fun learning experience or a nightmare.
Smoll’s research found that children respond most favorably, not to coaches and parents who punish undesirable behaviors, but to those who sincerely reinforce behaviors that are desirable.
For example, instead of yelling at a child for fumbling a ball, a parent or coach should congratulate the young athlete for the assist they made earlier in the game. This encourages the child to try their best.
Parent support is necessary for child success, but there is a fine line between supportiveness and pushiness.
Taken together, research also suggests that sport participation is not exceedingly stressful for most children. But the sport setting is capable of producing high levels of stress on young athletes.
Instead of finding athletic competition enjoyable and challenging, they endure anxiety and discomfort, which can have harmful psychological, behavioral, and health-related effects.
A little nervousness before competition is a perfectly normal part of athletic competition. On the other hand, extremely high levels of stress can destroy enjoyment and performance. Warning signs of excessive stress include the following:
• Loss of appetite.
• Disturbed sleep patterns.
• Physical maladies like headaches, upset stomach, or skin problems.
• Consistent inability to perform as well in competition as during practices.
• Desire to avoid the sport situation or to quit.
When these kinds of symptoms appear, parents should intervene and attempt to help their child cope with sport-related anxiety.
Youth sports should be enjoyable for everyone. Moreover, in addition to some obvious don’ts, you are encouraged to follow these guidelines for appropriate behavior prior to sport events:
- Tell your child to have fun. Emphasize that sports and other activities in life are enjoyable in themselves—whether you win or lose. In other words, having fun does not depend on winning!
- Tell your child that success is related to commitment and effort! The goal is to do your best, rather than be the best. Emphasize that athletes are never “losers” if they commit themselves to doing their best and giving maximum effort.
- Let your son or daughter know that the pride you feel is not affected by their level of performance, or by winning. Again, effort is what counts!
Effective communication with young athletes provides a solid foundation for them to build their football mental game. With good communication and open dialogue, you can set goals with your child and help him overcome challenges and work through issues.
You become his partner and supporter throughout his or her athletic journey. That puts you on the road to raising a happy, high-performing young athlete.
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