One of the areas that is discussed a lot, but parents often don’t really know what to do with is the process of developing a solid performance mindset for our young athletes. How to handle the stress and pressure that can come with competing. But, before I get into this one I have to confess that while I am a performance psychologist that is lucky enough to work with MLS, NWSL, and National Team players all the way down to youth club players, I am also a soccer parent. I have a now 15 year old that is playing for a DA team and an 11 year old that plays club soccer.
I have been THERE – in your shoes – on the ride home after a bad game. We’ve all been there.
So, here is my goal for each of the periodic articles I’ll write for this site – one topic or skill at a time, and hopefully they’ll be something practical and applicable for you! As this is the first of what I hope to be a number of these articles I wanted to start with the one that I feel is the most important for the young player and that everything else can build upon – never compare them to anyone else!
Don’t compare them to other teammates, opposing players, an older sibling, yourself, etc!
And, make sure that you’re aware of the words they’re using and if you hear them comparing direct them from doing it as well.
Instead our job is to help them have a deep and burning desire to become the best version of them that they can be.
What skills and strengths do they bring to the game? Do those as much as possible.
What are the things that can improve and grow in their game? Try to get a bit better each day/practice at those.
Ultimately, this is all we really have control over and if they can learn to max out their skills and talents that’s either going to be enough to get them to where they want to go, or it won’t, but at least they will have nothing to regret with that process.
By comparing we create a lifetime of judgment and judging based on things outside of themselves. Whereas focusing on becoming their best-self we help create a lifetime of focusing on the pride that comes with self-development and improvement. The first creates confidence based in others judgments or their own comparison to others, but the second builds confidence from within. Which one would you rather they do?
So, on the next difficult car ride home ask them to self reflect.
What did they do well? How will they continue to make sure they develop and use those skills? What would they like to improve? How will they go about creating a plan to improve them?
These simple questions create a proactive, and personal ownership mentality. Great skills for not only soccer, but for life!