Building Confidence For Youth Baseball Athletes

Every coach and parent knows that youth baseball players perform better when they are confident. It’s no mystery, even to the kid. Truthfully, it’s really quite simple and most parents already know how to do it, but they just don’t do it.

It all comes down to these 2 THINGS adults can do to build their child’s confidence in sports or anywhere:

1. Positive encouragement

2. Unconditional approval

See, I told you that you knew the answer. So, this article will help you correct the reasons why adults are so terrible in the execution of those principles and how to do it right!

HOW TO BUILD YOUR KIDS’ CONFIDENCE

1. POSITIVE ENCOURAGEMENT

Let’s start with positive encouragement. There’s nothing complicated about it. You just need to CONSISTENTLY deliver communication to your child/player that they can succeed and have all the skills and abilities they need to do well. The essence of confidence for anyone is in believing these 2 words: I CAN!

What’s the problem?
Adults need to understand that kids have this round-the-clock tape or voice in their head playing messages that they:

“Can’t do it”

or

“Doubt about their abilities.”

 

Adults don’t hear this out loud (because it’s inside their head) and so we think everything is fine and the kid is processing the world like we do. Not true.

In other words, we forget what it was like to be a kid! If I didn’t work inside the minds of so many kids over the years, I would have forgotten too. Therefore, you as a parent need to help your child balance out that automatic negativity with just as much “CAN DO” messages, and that takes lots of them! Just use simple labels and sentences and give believable specifics like this:

“You have a really good eye for pitches!”

“You are such a hard worker… that will get you through anything in baseball!”

“Your fielding just keeps getting better and better every season Your speed and quickness will always give you an advantage!”

Say these things in passing around the home, in the car, anywhere. Not just at the baseball field. Use labels like: “Speedy” or “Mr. Power” or “Lightning” to help your child really own their strengths to use them as a foundation to build confidence on.

2. UNCONDITIONAL APPROVAL

This is actually more important than positive encouragement. A simple statement like this sums it up:

“I believe in you no matter what happens here.”

The reason parents and coaches fail in this area is often because of unspoken messages. Here’s what I mean: When a kid strikes out and walks back to the dugout and glances at the parent/coach and sees the disappointment in body language or facial expression, the kid gets the message of “disapproval” from the adult.

This is a kids’ worst nightmare – disapproval – especially from a parent.

In other words, whenever any subtle or direct communication (some studies say verbal is only 10% of communication) to the child is received that approval is conditional upon performance, then the child is going to be afraid to fail. That fear destroys confidence.

Confidence cannot occur in the presence of fear. That’s the bottom line.

Here’s some examples of what you want to do and the most important time to do it is when your kid is not doing well.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR KID DOES NOT PERFORM WELL:

1. When your kid strikes out, make it a point to go over there and tell him/her,

“You rock taking your cuts up there!”

2. When your kid makes an error, don’t just go over to “cheer him up” tell him he’s still got it and he is an awesome fielder and you are proud of how he went for it. Look for the positive in the event and never show your disappointment, even if you are just being empathetically disappointed for him. That’s the key.

Are you getting the picture here? Use your encouraging voice tones. Be more than positive, be passionate! Hug or high five him or touch him somehow to reassure him that he has your full approval no matter what just happened.

Use your encouraging voice tones. Be more than positive, be passionate!

Confidence gets built by successes in the absence of fear. Your job is to eliminate his fears and highlight his successes.

Craig Sigl,
Your mental toughness trainer

4 thoughts on “Building Confidence For Youth Baseball Athletes

  1. Brenda

    There is such a fine line between giving encouragement and being honest. How do you give encouragement without giving false praise? I don’t want to raise a kid who thinks that she can get a trophy for everything even when performance is not good.

    When your high school age child’s performance is not up to par how can you answer the question, “How did I do? or play”?” honestly without breaking down confidence?

    She’s working through the Mental Toughness Academy and I don’t want to set her back while she is finding her way back from a “let down” of a school season, but I know that AAU season is just two weeks away and she will ask at the end of a game how she did.

    Reply
    1. Craig Sigl Post author

      Brenda, excellent question. First off, if she says “How did I do?” she is possibly looking for your approval as a person, as your daughter. If she truly wanted to just know how she “played” she would ask her coach or assistant coach and look for the feedback to improve upon.

      What do you mean by “Performance is not up to par” ?

      What is “Up to par?” and who is the judge of that? Normally it’s the coach that makes that call.

      If my kid asked “How did I do?” and I know the sport well… and I knew there was plenty of room for improvement, I would just answer something to the real question like this: “I am so proud of you every time you go out there. I absolutely love it when I get to watch you (mention something she did or does well)…..how about when we get home or later on you and I put our heads together and see how we can come up with a plan for your continual improvement and we’ll talk about what happened in the game in the plan? Would you like to do that with me? I have some ideas that I think you’ll like.”

      So, look what I’ve done with the answer above. 1. I’ve avoided the #1 cause of performance anxiety – disappointing my parents. 2. I give her some time to soak in that I approve of her no matter what happened in the game. 3. I set up a separate time for us to map out training goals and the means to achieve them. THAT is what makes a winner, achieving training goals that are derived from a long term goal. Save the game errors for this planning session 4. She learns resilience from her sub-par performance that there is no “failure” just experiences to learn and improve from.

      You want to instill an attitude of continuous improvement WITHOUT triggering performance anxiety. A kid who wants to work with a parent for continuous improvement is a smart, open kid. You must do whatever you can to avoid her thinking that your approval of her is dependent on her performance. This is what kids are thinking and they don’t tell their parents that. Believe me, I’ve heard it hundreds of times from kids worldwide.

      She is VERY lucky to have a caring parent like you who seeks out how to help her the best way she can. Bravo Brenda.
      Craig

      Reply

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