Sports parents and coaches sometimes struggle with helping young athletes learn and develop sport skills, but did you know that sport skill acquisition can be dramatically improved upon by using a few relatively simple sport psychology based strategies? The next time you set out to help your child (or the kids you coach) improve mental toughness and on-field play, consider using the following:
1. Clearly identify target behaviors. Rather than shouting out vague instructions like “Get your head in the game!” or “Be sure to make that next play!” try to instead be specific about the behavior(s) you want to see happen. For example, showing a child how to take a proper stride in the batters box in baseball or where to specifically be positioned on the basketball court in order to increase the chance for a rebound are much more effective approaches compared to simply yelling out “Get a hit”" or “Grab that next rebound.”
2. Support unconditionally. Rather than becoming frustrated when a kid goofs up (which will inevitably happen), try to be the adult in the situation and keep your emotions in check. Getting mad, throwing your arms in the air, and using profanities won’t help your child learn any faster, but might turn him or her off from wanting to continue to play the sport.
3. Teach kids what to do rather than telling them what not to do. Instead of telling kids things like “don’t strike out” or “don’t miss the next ball hit to you,” try to instead offer instructions on what to do. Ironically, when we tell ourselves “don’t” we actually end up doing just that — like if I said to you right now don’t think of a purple gorilla, what did you think of?? Offering kids specific instructions will not only provide them with clear-cut plans of what to do, but will also offer them support and encouragement.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is a graduate of The Ohio State University and the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center.
For more information visit his website: www.drstankovich.com