Sports Psychology and Children - 3 Simple Principles
Preparing a child mentally for sports is just as important as the focus on developing their skills.
Applying a few simple principles during your time as a coach or mentor will help make their enjoyment of the game of basketball a success now and in the future.
Principle #1 - Setting Goals
Children need to not only be able to achieve goals to install in them a sense of accomplishment and self esteem, these goals need to also be achievable by them personally. Setting team goals as the only sense of accomplishment does not allow the individual to develop a sense of their own achievement, above and outside of what the team accomplishes. By this I mean if your only goal as a coach is to win, then not winning is a failure, not just for one individual, but for ALL on the team.
Winning is not a bad goal, it has its place and is preferable to anyone who competes in any sport. But focus on goals that your young players have control over. Goals within the game like:
- Number of basketball rebounds or assists
- Number of hustle stats like... screens set, deflections, or charges taken
- Giving my best effort
- Being a good teammate
- Showing sportsmanship
By making individual goals, you empower the child to succeed even if the team does not, and developing their sense of self at a young age is just as important as the team concept.
Principle #2 - Solving The Big "What if I... " Problem
Participating in any sport, but specifically a team sport is a lot of pressure for young people...
They feel like they are the center of the world, and that world is watching their every move! What if I miss this shot? What if I don't play good defense? What if I...the list in these young minds can be long and very remotely connected. What if my dad thinks Johnny is a better player than me?
Try and keep your players in the moment.
Teach them to focus on the “the next play” and not to worry about mistakes. Teach them to focus on their team and the court, rather than the spectators. Taking their focus off the questions and placing them on the action at hand, will help them to focus mentally and take the pressure away that these random self doubts will bring up.
Not to mention, they NEED TO KNOW it’s ok to make mistakes. That is how you learn!
Remind them that as long as they are truly giving their best effort, then “what if” doesn’t matter.
Principle #3 - Motivate Players by "Asking Them"
Not sure how to motivate your kids or what will work? Ask them!
Trust me, if anyone knows what is fun to kids, what they like to do and what they like to get...it’s kids. Just remember any Christmas from your childhood and it will bring back memories of what you wanted and how motivated you were to get Santa to bring it!
Communicate with your kids, ask them what they like about basketball, what they don’t like. Listen to what they say. If there are certain drills they hate, then find out why and choose a suitable replacement. If they can’t seem to understand your inbounding play, then change it or find out how to motivate them to learn it.
Do they enjoy scrimmage time, lay up drills, or playing Donkey? Then instead of pushing them with “we are running this inbounding play till you dang well get it!”, motivate them with extra time doing a skill they find fun once they all concentrate on the inbound play.
This is just one example but I think you get the gist of it. Communicate then motivate!
The mind of our young athletes is just as important as their bodies. Do yourself and them a favor and get inside their heads, help them figure out what’s going on in there and be a coach and mentor who is helping them become a happy, fun loving and competent player, inside and out.
What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...