A lot of things go into making someone a great athlete. They need at least a little natural talent, be willing to learn and put in the hard work that pushes them to the next level, know how to take a loss on the cheek and keep on trucking, stay focused and committed even when they are tired and lots more. Plenty of parents and coaches look for the "secret" to turning a kid into an athletic superstar, and while there is no one "right way" to help a child become a solid youth athlete (and maybe beyond) it's fair to say that confidence plays a big part in the overall process! If a child doesn't believe in themselves no amount of outside work will matter!
According to sports psychologist Dr. Alan Goldberg, there are seven things that go into making someone a confident athlete:
1. Bank on your skills.
Self-confidence comes with training. The more an athlete can trust in their skills the more confident they'll be on the field, which is why taking practice seriously is so important. When you've done the work you know you know what to do no matter what!
2. Remind yourself of rule #1.
Plenty of youth athletes have a little pre-game routine to "get them in the zone." But if that pre-game routine is interrupted it doesn't mean they are bound to fail! Remember, it's the skills and the hard work that matters, not your superstitions. If your nerves are getting the better of you just remember you've done the work and the results will follow.
3. Don't compare yourself to others.
Save yourself the aggravation and stop comparing yourself to everyone around you! There is always going to be someone a little faster, a little stronger, a little better than you. And that's okay! Don't feel like you can't compete with those people; learn from them. What gives them that edge and how can you take that into your practice routine to make yourself that much better? And even if someone is "better" that doesn't mean they can't be beat. That's why we all love the underdog story! The hungry team with confidence and drive can beat the "better" team any day!
4. Focus on what you can control.
If you're an outfielder you can't control where a fly ball is going to land. But you can control your starting stance, your level of focus, your choice of play. There are always going to be a million and one things you can't control–the weather, the field, the officials, the other players (including your teammates). So instead of making yourself crazy worrying about that which you can't control just focus on what you can control! Being in control helps build confidence.
5. Dwell on the positive.
Too often we only look at the bad things we do and the mistakes we make. Give yourself a little credit because confidence comes from doing things right and knowing you did well. For instance, if the weather is bad don't think about how much it will ruin your game. Instead, think about how it makes it that much harder for the other team to beat yours! Turning negatives around can give you the confidence to fight through just about anything.
6. Catch yourself doing things right.
We probably don't need to hand out medals every time every youth athlete does something right, but compliments mean a lot, especially when it comes to building confidence! It's good to hear that you did something right and that other's noticed. But even if no one else notices YOU need to notice and give yourself a pat on the back for doing a good job. Give yourself credit where credit is due.
7. Be a good coach to yourself.
The best coaches know when to back off a player and when to push them harder. Cut yourself some slack when you need it; it's okay to be tired, to be rundown, to need a break. On the flip side, admit when you're slacking, when you aren't giving it your all, or when you could have done better. So be a good coach to yourself and be honest about what you need!
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