How’s your child’s youth sports season going? This spotlight on youth sports post focuses on an athlete’s hard season and how you can help turn it around.
As a life coach, I’m a big advocate of parents coaching their kids. Not the sports kind of coaching, but the life kind of coaching. If your child is in a really tough season, here are 10 conversations that you can have with your child that can help turn the season around. Take some time, be patient with the process. Life coaching is not a quick fix.
When a season is not going well, it’s good to start by asking your child the basic and start with: Why do you want to play?
- Talk about all the wrong reasons to play: trying to be like mom or dad, wanting to be noticed, a star,
- Talk about the right reasons to play: first and foremost: you love the sport! exercise, friendships, pursuing a dream.
Who are you playing for?
- The coach? He or she may be hard to please or unfair or may not seem to notice your hard work.
- Us (the parents)? We’re glad that you love us and want us to be proud of you, but you have to know that we love you, no matter how you perform.
- Your friends and others not on the team? Fans can be fickle and often don’t understand how hard it is to sacrifice for a sport.
- You should be playing for yourself, personal satisfaction, a greater purpose if you have one, for your team, who needs you.
What can you NOT change about your season?
There are a lot of factors that go into a “bad” season that you have no control over. Realizing this and letting them go will help take some of the frustration out of a season.
- Can’t change bad refs
- Can’t change how good the other teams are
- Can’ t change your teammates or spectator’s attitudes
- Can’t change injuries
What CAN You Change?
Focus instead on what you CAN change:
- you can change your own attitude towards the things you don’t like
- you can change how hard you work
- you can change your performance because you work hard
- you can change how you treat teammates and opponents
It’s important to recognize that there are things your child CAN change (#4) and things they CAN’T change (#3) in any given season. Learning to focus on what they can change instead of the things they can’t, will give them a more positive attitude and keep them from blaming everybody else for the frustrating season they may be having.
Take a step back and see the bigger picture for a minute.
I told my son this during one particularly frustrating season where he could never seem to please the coach.
This season will soon be over; you will not always have this coach, you will move on to someone else, you will still have this game and your love for it; don’t let one hard season steal that from you.
What if your kid is not getting the playing time he/she wants? Or the position he/she wants to play?
They may feel like they are not really an important part of the team. That simply is just not true. Leadership is not a title; it’s an attitude. Yes, you can be a leader from the bench.
My daughter played h.s. basketball and after playing a lot in her junior year, she was switched to a different position on the court and ended up getting less time in her senior year. She was ready to quit, but her season went from awful to awesome when she realized that her role was to be a leader and an encourager to her teammates, even when she was not playing as much as she wanted. At season’s end, she was honored for this by her coach.
Take the pressure off your kids to get the scholarship.
That kind of pressure only adds more stress to their season. Many times parents and players are in a panic because they worry the lack of playing time will diminish their chances of playing in college and so they blame the coach for this: “It’s YOUR fault that he/she won’t get a scholarship.”
If your child deserves a D-1 scholarship, then they will be so noticeably skilled that this should not be an issue. You don’t get to play D-1 if you are struggling to get noticed by a high school or
Discuss what it means to be a team player and why your child’s role is important.
Everybody has a part to play. It takes an entire team to win a game.
A basketball team has five players; football, 11; volleyball, 6; soccer,11; baseball and softball, 9. Even MVP winner LeBron James cannot play the game alone. Take four players off the basketball court and watch the star player get beat. Doesn’t matter how good he can dunk.
And can a quarterback throw without a line to protect him or a receiver to catch? No matter how important your child is to the team’s success, your child depends on his teammates; they need each other for success.
Building on the idea of team, help your child to recognize and accept the differences of team members and learn to appreciate those differences
It’s important for members of a sports team to understand that too. Your child needs to know that they don’t have to be like everyone else on the team. They are unique and bring their own set of strengths to the game. It’s so easy for kids to compare themselves to others and think they are not as good or quick or big as a fellow teammate.
Help your athlete figure out their strengths and know what they bring to the team. Encourage them to focus on doing that strength to the best of their ability.
My son and daughter both played basketball all the way through high school and understood the strengths they brought to the team; they did not compare themselves with other team members. My daughter was a beast on defense and my son was an excellent 3 point shooter; both were smart passers with a vision for the court. Although they both strived to be all-around good players, they knew their strengths and worked to make a difference on the team with those strengths.
When teammates cause a problem
- When players are selfish or difficult: encourage your child to set the example and show his teammates how a true team player fights for the team’s success, not his own.
- When players are bullying: talk to your child about not just standing by and letting it happen, but to speak up, NOT join in and when necessary have the courage to talk to an adult about the situation.
Helping your child turn their season around from awful to awesome means you weather the storms of difficulty and adversity. For some, they come at the beginning when things are not going as you’d planned; for others, midseason is hard and your child may want to quit. And for some others, the ending is a huge disappointment because things didn’t end as they’d hoped.
My kids have experienced all three and yet as we look back and talk about those hard times, they don’t label seasons as “awful”.
That is what it takes to turn awful into awesome. It doesn’t mean that your child will come out winning an award