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Community in Youth Sports | Youth Sports Psychology

confidence in community for young athletes

If Young Athletes Work Together, They Will Grow Together

V.J. Stanley, a coach, former teacher and author of three youth sports books, believes that building community is the most important goal for coaches and parents who want to boost their kids’ confidence and happiness in sports.

Equal play for kids age 10 and under is one important way to build this community, he says.

“We want to teach the idea of community, and using community to lift the group,” he says. When young kids’ sports teams focus on equal play, the kids help each other out. “The group in itself starts to lift up.” More experienced or talented players help out and teach the kids who are younger and less experienced. This lays a foundation of confidence in younger kids.

Along with building community, coaches and parents should help kids understand the role of negative thinking in youth sports. Negative thinking, he says, is a natural product of how we think. In his latest book, “Does Your Mind Mind What You’re Doing to Your Body?” he explains it’s quicker for the brain to choose negativity over positivity. 

“The mind is predisposed to negative thoughts,” he says. “The negative response is shorter in the brain. It’s the path of least resistance.” That means that parents, coaches and sports kids need to switch their priorities. They need to understand how the mind works and stop focusing on negative thoughts. They should think–and give feedback– in a more positive fashion.

Achieving “peace of mind” is also critical, he says. Building community helps create that peace of mind. “We want the kids to work together, make that their priority.” One way to do that is through equal play, which helps kids learn and engage. It also helps kids play intuitively, rather than worrying about competing with their teammates for playing time.

“Ask any great athlete, listen to what they say after they make a great play. They say, “I don’t know how I did it, I couldn’t hear the crowd, don’t know what the coach said.’” Having peace of mind blocks out noise and stress. It allows kids to make snap decisions, and play intuitively, which is an ideal way to play.

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What are parents and coaches saying?

“I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful programs. My son Kai was one of the fastest 10 and under swimmers in Southern California and after he “aged up” to the 11-12 group he really lost confidence swimming against the much faster and bigger boys. He started with the Confident Sports Kids series and really enjoyed each and every lesson. He then started the Composed Kid series and built on the important building blocks that he was using from the first series. I so happy to report that Kai was able to swim to best times in each and every event he swam at the biggest and most important meet of the year in So Cal, the Club Championships. Each race he was more calm, composed, and relaxed. The final race was one that he was ranked last and one of his goals was to try for top 16…he was 49th! He cut over 4 seconds off his time ending up in 17th. He was ecstatic to say the least.”
~DD Bartley

My wife and I immediately applied your tips and luckily we got a fast response. Our 16-year-old daughter reads like a case study for lack of confidence. She matches the profile your e-book describes: high technical ability and successful in soccer practice but looks like she forgets how to play in games!”
~Glenn G. New Jersey

“I use your tips to help a sophomore high school student athlete. Last night, after I gave him some of your email tips – relax, get in the flow of the game, have fun, play by instinct, etc. – He busted loose for a career high 20 points and 15 rebounds!”
~Bob Heidkamp

“I appreciate the advice to parents as to how to help your child become more mentally resilient to bullying in sports. The specific advice and scenarios are extremely helpful for any child on a team and very helpful in guiding parents, coaches and administrators in how to deal with bullying in sports. I cannot thank you enough for your input, and I am so reassured to know that there are people like you who are writing articles and doing interviews on such timely and important matters.”
~Julie Goot


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