Want to help kids perform better in sports?
Your best bet is to pull back and refrain from critiquing, offering feedback and creating expectations by telling them what they should -- or should not -- do.
In his new book, Don’t “Should” On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness (November 30, 2015), prominent sport psychology coach Dr. Rob Bell (drrobbell.com) and co-author Bill Parisi explain why, and what approach to take instead.
Mental toughness, the book says, is the ability to cope with setbacks, adversity and pressure. Only through building mental toughness can we truly help kids play their best when it matters most.
Unfortunately, though, the professionalization of youth sports has shifted the emphasis from toughness to trophies and from personal development to scholarships. In the process, we’ve cultivated an all-or-nothing mentality that forces kids to focus on the end result rather than the process. But a love of the process is what will ultimately translate into grit and guts, resiliency and the will to fight without giving up. Adults’ critiques, feedback and expectations only stifle this.
Four steps are key to turning the situation around:
Allow kids to own the process of participating in sports rather than simply buying into it.
Let kids fail and learn from failures’ priceless lessons.
Drop expectations about outcome and external rewards including scholarships.
Remember that the goal of youth sports is having fun and learning good life skills. Behave accordingly.
Don’t “Should” On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness gives a comprehensive look at the dynamics behind each of these steps while breaking them down into specific action items for parents and coaches. It also offers dozens of practical tips and nuggets of coaching and parenting wisdom, including:
- The 3 types of sports parents. Which type are YOU?
Do’s and Don’ts for the all-important car ride home.
How to build kids’ confidence and prepare them for the essential “hinge moment.”
How to identify and understand what your kids’ “why” is in sports.
How to help your kids set their own expectations for the season and be accountable for them.
How and why to let your kids deal with the consequences of their actions surrounding athletics.
How ending practice early can increase kids’ motivation.
- What it means to have the toxic “at-least” mindset and how to prevent it.
“Youth sports are about our kids, not ourselves,” Dr. Rob emphasizes. “Being truly supportive means ditching the imperatives of “should,” letting go of being vicarious and instead creating an environment that prepares our kids for the long term, not the short term. Our role above all is to stress effort, accountability and character, for the true purpose of youth sports is to build character and serve as a metaphor for life.”
About Dr. Rob Bell
Rob Bell, Ph.D. (drrobbell.com), is the author of several books on sports psychology including The Hinge, Mental Toughness Training for Golf, and NO FEAR: A Simple Guide to Mental Toughness. A sport psychology coach and owner of DRB & Associates, where he works with athletes, coaches and teams on achieving peak performance, Rob has coached winners during the PGA tour. He has also advised major universities, most recently working with Notre Dame. His upcoming book, Don't "Should" On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness (2015), co-authored with Bill Parisi, celebrates toughness over trophies and guides parents in strengthening and affirming their young athletes’ capabilities. He is a regular guest on ESPN 104.5 “The Zone” in Tennessee, has appeared on Fox News in Indianapolis and has been featured on The Golf Channel as well as in Stack Magazine, Runner’s World and The New York Times.
About Bill Parisi
Bill Parisi, co-author of Don't "Should" On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness, is founder of Parisi Speed School and an internationally recognized fitness business expert. An originator of the U.S. youth training industry, Bill has served as a consultant to the NY Giants, was commissioned by Nike to help develop its original high school football combines and has lectured for such esteemed organizations as the NFL and the American College of Sports Medicine. A multiple-time NCAA Division I All-American track and field athlete, Bill competed at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in the javelin throw. He has been featured on Fox Sports, ESPN, CNBC, CBI, and in Running Magazine.