I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Changing the Game' for Young Athletes

I enjoy articles and information about youth sports, and a great website with thoughtful information and resources is Changing The Game Project by John O'Sullivan. The site includes his blog with some great topics that parents, coaches and athletes will appreciate. One blog that O'Sullivan recently wrote was titled, Are Your Kids Mentally Weak? He went through five points that should be considered and can be the difference between kids being mentally weak or strong.

1) Struggle is Good--Surround yourself with people who will challenge you.
2) Let them fail--Do not fear failure. Learn from failure.
3) Praise Effort--Do not "over-praise" but praise work effort and the things that will help improve.
4) Strict is a good thing--It will be appreciated in the long run.
5) Stress is good--Learning to deal with stress in sports will lead to lifelong success.

I think that O'Sullivan's points and comments are right on. He does a great job of stressing that with each point, there is a line that parents can push but not cross, and with a thoughtful approach, parents can really help their kids. O'Sullivan talks about letting kids fail, but then is quick to point out that parents and coaches need to make sure that communication is established with kids and explaining that 'failing' is part of athletics which leads to improving, working harder, and learning many valuable lessons. Emotional toughness can be very difficult to instill, and O'Sullivan points out that there will be some struggles and tough times as the athletes and parents work to achieve this. Parents have to be willing to help their kids find the right mentors and coaches that will push their kids in a healthy way and not always pamper their kids.

I would add my own thoughts to O'Sullivan's points:

1) Our staff at Riggs Premier Football is experienced in challenging athletes and working with them through the challenges. Good coaches make a huge difference!
2) We want challenges, and we want to set high goals. Goals are something that we continually strive for, and we will face failure as we try to reach our goals. If the goal is easily attainable, then it will not make the athlete any better. Athletes must experience failure as they strive for their goals, and they must learn how to improve from that failure.
3) Create a mindset that allows athletes know they are doing good things, but don't 'overpraise' them for every little thing. Make sure that athletes know that your praise has a meaning and is not just constant wasted verbiage.
4) Coaches that create discipline are the ones that athletes will remember. They will not like the change at first, because things will not be easy, but it will pay off in the long run. Along with discipline there must be good communication. A coach can create an environment where they have certain standards, but it's important they explain why they have these standards.
5) Do not allow everything to be easy. Athletes need to feel the pressures of different stressors from competition. The stressors that they face in athletics are the same stressors they are going to experience when they are at school and work. Learning to face these types of stress and then overcome them will only make them better.

It is a great reminder that we need to work together to provide a solid, supportive environment in which kids can learn to succeed! That is a lesson parents and coaches should always keep in mind.

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