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Sports Psychology: How To Help Your Child Succeed At Sports

Posted by: Dr. Granat on April 26, 2008

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


same page.




           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


their sport.  




         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  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










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