How To Help Your Child Succeed At Sports
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D.
Sports play a huge role in our society. What are some of the things that
parents can do to help their kids to enjoy sports and to succeed at sports?
Do what you can to make sure that your child is having a positive experience
with coaches and with teammates. The wrong coach can turn a kid off
to a sport or to sports in general. Similarly, conflicts with teammates
and peer pressure can make sports quite unpleasant. You need to help
your child work out these interpersonal issues, and in some instances, you
will need to intervene or intercede on his or her behalf.
Try to determine if your child seems better suited for team sports or
for individual sports. Some kids love the camaraderie of team sports.
Others enjoy competing on their own. And of course, some kids like both.
Your children learn a lot by watching and by observing you and your
spouse. Be sure to model good sportsmanship, grace, gentleness and
integrity on and off the athletic field. We have all read the horror stories
about violent sports parents who are out of control on the soccer field,
the baseball diamond, in the basketball gym or at the hockey rink. If you
behave inappropriately at these venues, your children are apt to do the same
Lots of kids have difficulty managing the busy schedules which
include games, practices, travel, cross training, family activities and
school work. In many instances, the parents and their kids are spread
quite thin and are quite overwhelmed.
Help your child to find a balance and make sure that they do not have
too much on their plates.
Be aware of burn out. If your child has lost some of his her
enthusiasm and his or her performance has declined, your youngster
may be burnt out. Talk with them and see if they need a break, a new
challenge, a different approach to their sport or a new sport.
Is your child an elite athlete? Elite athletes often show mature talent and
exceptional drive earl on. I counsel many athletes who
fall into this category and they usually report loving their sport at an
early age. They love practice and they usually can compete successfully
with kids who are a few years older than they are.
If your child is an elite athlete, you will discover that the age of
specialization has now crept into sports. While there are some children
who can excel at several sports, most top athletes focus on one today.
In addition, baseball players don’t just get a baseball coach. They get a
second base coach, a hitting coach and a pitching coach.
If your child wants to achieve a high level of success at sports,
it is important the coach, the youngster and you have a good working
relationship. I frequently intervene to help everyone to get on the
Expect to have different coaches and trainers during the course
of your kid’s athletic career. This is normal. Be open to switching because
different coaches teach different things and they call all have a positive impact
on your youngster. If you and your child and the coach are in constant
friction, something is wrong and it needs to fixed.
Many young and talented athletes are clueless about the mental
aspects of their sport. For example, I counseled a very talented tennis
player who knew zero about the strategy of the game and less about
her own psychological strengths and weaknesses. I was a bit shocked
at how weak her mental skills were, since her mother owned and ran
a successful tennis facility.
Similarly, I have seen hundreds of very talented young golfers
who can hit the ball great on the range but who fall apart on the course.
Likewise, many baseball players with great swings can not hit in
game conditions because they think very poorly about the game, the
count and about themselves when they step up to the plate.
If you want your child to excel at sports they need to learn to
understand the strategy as well as the internal mental aspects of
Do whatever you can to teach your child to be relaxed, confident, focused
and optimistic on and off the court. Show them how to manage the successes
and the setbacks.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist and the Founder of www.StayInTheZone.com. He is the author of a new book, Get Into The Zone In Just One Minute and many other programs for athletes, parents and coaches.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org