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, and 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 steps to “Stop overthinking?” Or how about that vague command to “Get focused or get your head in the game?”
They don’t know what any of that means, let alone HOW to do what you are telling them.
And so what happens?
You create confusion, uncertainty, worry that they “Aren’t doing it right” and will ultimately disappoint the adults giving them the advice.
So, instead of the kid just playing in the present moment with their body, which they do naturally and don’t have to be told HOW to do, by the way, we teach them with these silly cliche’s to get in their head and their useless fear-based thoughts.
Also, you might think that telling them to “Just go out there and have fun” is good advice and it CAN be but it is a risky move.
The whole culture of youth sports is organized around winning and how well the kids perform. There’s no question 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 base their identity on whether or not they get playing time, make the team, get to the next level and even their friendships are centered around this. These messages are constant and everywhere.
And then you go and tell them to “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 mixed messages.