6 Ways Fragile Confidence is Nurtured or Crushed Written By John Michael Kelly
I like to compare a younger athlete's sports confidence to that of holding a new born baby. Of course extra caution is necessary due to how fragile the infant child is.
How any parent or coach handles their athlete(s) is no different. In truth how you “hold” your athlete's confidence matters, for it too is exceptionally fragile. One wrong move and BAM her confidence can shatter, or at the very least develop a large bump on the forehead!
In any given moment with every word spoken, body language gesture or facial expression (after all 90% of our communication as humans is non-verbal, according to a recent UCLA study) your athlete's sports confidence, like that baby, is either being nurtured or damaged.
As a parent or coach you get to decide whether that precious cargo of “confidence” you are holding, and have so much power to shape, will grow steadily or erode steadily. Here are 6 tips to consider:
1. Are you really being critical or supportive? If you are harping on results or expecting her to do more than she is capable you will damage or stymie her confidence.
2. In the same way you speak praise and support to a toddler attempting their first steps, or a child's first bike ride your athlete's confidence needs praise, not criticism or judgment. Words can be very damaging to a young person's confidence, self-esteem and self-image. Use your words carefully!
3. So often I see and hear parents and coaches getting down on their athlete(s) after a mistake on the field, almost as if the athlete was trying to screw up. I can assure you that your athlete is likely doing her best to master a very difficult sport. Allow those mistakes to be the springboard for learning and growth; not events she is terrified of because of the nasty comments, looks and body language she expects from parent or coach.
4. In truth confidence and competence are tied together. As parent or coach work hard to help your athlete to get better in all facets of their game. Give them the constant encourage and time it takes to improve. The more competent she “feels” she is the more her confidence will naturally grow. If she knows that in your eyes making a mistake isn't the end of the world you will be amazed, and I say this from personal experience, how much better she will feel about herself…and how much better she will play!
5. Remember that confidence in one area of her game doesn't guarantee confidence in all areas. By on the lookout for cracks in her confidence and address them in the most supportive way possible. Remind her that she doesn't have to be perfect (no player is).
6. Enjoy the journey. Her softball days will end someday. Why not be more focused on the creation of great memories for both of you instead of making endless mountains out of mole hills that both erode her sports confidence and drive a wedge of frustration between you both.
My daughter recently left for college and I would do anything to take back so many of the harmful things I said to her out of frustration over the years of her playing softball.
Commit to being different. Focus on what you are “for” instead of what you are “against.” Develop a positive, supportive, nurturing mindset and watch your athlete(s) blossom on and off the diamond!
John Michael Kelly: John Michael Kelly, America’s Sports Confidence Coach, is known for skyrocketing the self-confidence and game performance levels for thousands of youth athletes and teams from coast to coast by reducing the stress and increasing the joy for playing the game! John also coaches travel softball with the 18u and 18 Gold teams for The Next Level (“TNL”) organization in sunny San Diego. You can follow John at SoftballSmarts.com and Facebook.com/SoftballSmarts.
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