As coaches and educators, we draw upon all sorts of experiences to help insure that we are doing the very best job possible for the young athletes that we work with. As someone who has a tremendous regard for the psychology of sport, my every effort goes into preparing my charges to be at their peak when it comes time to perform. For me, peak means relaxed, excited, and eager to have some fun. We are looking for a balance between excitement and nervousness.

As parents, we would like to see our kids have some success, some fun, and maybe make new friends. So how do we help to insure that happens? Do we fully understand the frame of mind that allows our child to perform at their highest level and truly enjoy their game experience? At what age does their performance actually matter? Telling a seven year old that you want them to play hard and concentrate is a lot different than sharing that same message with a 13 year old. In my world, you would never tell a seven year old to play hard. I think the only thing I would ever say to a 7 year old would be to go out and have fun.....period.

So you’re on your way to a soccer game with your child and you want them to do well.  What kinds of things are you saying? Is there any chance that your message might be adding pressure to the situation? As they get older, is that message going deeper in the direction of effort and performance. Are you able to step back from the situation and really process your message? I ask this only because an overwhelming number of kids who quit sports list the car ride as a reason why they have not enjoyed themselves.

What about the ride home? Do you ever find yourself critiquing your child’s performance? Do you think this is the conversation they want to be having? Try to put yourself in their place and examine it from their perspective. I mean, really try.

Here is a very logical (and simple) explanation on how sports work. Kids play because they are having fun. Kids quit because they are not having fun. Which scenario are your comments supporting?

If we allow our children to simply have fun, they will keep playing. If they are destined to advance in a sport, they must become their own motivators. When this happens, they are the first ones to know when they made a mistake and when they did something really positive. They don’t need anyone to tell them. Our job as parents of young athletes is actually pretty easy when you follow this perspective.

Could you see this approach working for you?

-Steve Locker