Think of Mistakes as Learning Opportunities
There are numerous advantages to kids’ embracing a growth mindset in youth sports.
Kids who have a growth mindset tend to see mistakes as opportunities for growth. They rarely say, “I can’t do this.” They generally don’t feel “stuck” but instead feel as if they’re learning and growing.
Kids with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, tend to get stuck. They tell themselves, “I’ll never ever be able to do this.” They have negative attitudes about making mistakes, rather than seeing mistakes as learning opportunities.
In a recent interview with our Ultimate Sports Parent podcast, “Building Confidence in Young Athletes,” Michaela Renee Johnson, a licensed therapist, bestselling author and top iTunes podcaster (“But Why?”), provided tips for helping kids focus on growth.
First of all, she says, focus on experiences.
“Youth are asked at a young age, ‘What do you want to do?’ as if there’s only one option,” Johnson says. Instead, parents should encourage kids to be excited about their opportunities and all the things they can experience.
“When we start to shift our perspective to experiences we want to have in life instead of something tangible we need to obtain, then we set ourselves up for success,” she says.
It’s also important to help kids recognize when they’re in a fixed mindset. For example, they might tell themselves, “I’ll never ever be able to do that.”
“When we get into that mindset, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she says. Help kids shift their mindset, and tell themselves, “Today wasn’t the best day, but I learned a lot.”
Too many compliments and positive reinforcement can make kids feel stuck, she says. If parents make broad, sweeping compliments, kids may feel as though they don’t need to improve. She suggests that parents give very specific positive feedback. For example, pick out something the child did during a game that was interesting or unique and comment about that, she says.
“When my son was doing art, I’d say, ‘I really like this yellow line here.”
In addition, if kids are feeling stuck because they’re afraid of re-injuring themselves after an injury, help them take baby steps, says Johnson.
“Every time you have an experience that doesn’t result in the trauma you experienced (from an injury), your brain rewires itself, the muscle memory comes back and fear starts to subside,” she says.
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It’s no secret that sports success is linked closely to an athlete’s mental toughness. If your young athletes struggle to perform well in competition, are frustrated with their performance, talk about quitting or display low confidence levels, mental game training can help. Both you and your young athlete can learn how to build mental toughness and improve performance with sports psychology coaching for kids.
One-on-one sports psychology coaching is the fastest and most effective method to improve your athletes’ mental game, boost their performance, and make lasting changes. And as a bonus, parents learn what to say to help young athletes feel confident and thrive in sports.
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