3. Stop delivering typical sports cliches and trite sayings that mean nothing to a kid like:
“You just have to believe in yourself”
“When you’re out there, you have to be focused”
“Just go out there and have fun”
This is my personal pet peeve having worked in this area for so long, Typically, youth coaches are the worst offenders! Think about this: can you explain to a kid HOW to believe in themselves?
Can you give them the instructions to just “Stop overthinking things!” How about the ol’ adage “Get your head in the game?”
Obviously they don’t have a clue how to be inspired or instructed by phrases like these. Do you even know yourself?
And now the consequences…
This non-advice just creates confusion, uncertainty, and lost confidence. This will ultimately disappoint the adults giving them the advice – not to mention the kids playing the game!
So, instead of the kid just playing in the present moment with their body – something they do naturally and don’t have to be told HOW to. We naively try motivating them with these meaningless sports cliches which get into their heads and provoke negative and damaging fear-based thoughts.
Also…you might think that telling them to “Just go out there and have fun!” is good advice. It CAN be but it is a risky move and can backfire.
The whole culture of youth sports is organized around winning and how well the kids perform. There is no doubt about that. Coaches, parents in the stands cheering good play and being disappointed in poor play like I already mentioned and other messages constantly coming at them like:
Did you win?
How did you do?
Did you start today?
Did you score?
How many points? etc.
If that isn’t enough, kids develop their identities and even friendships on whether or not they make team rosters, get play time, and get to the next level.
These messages are constant and everywhere.
They you tell them: “Just go out there and have fun.” They hear that and at best, they forget it after 2 minutes and slip back into the whole performance-centered mentality they’ve been overwhelmed with. And at worst subconsciously destroy their confidence in advice from you because of the conflicting messages.