Helping Your Pint-Sized Perfectionist Athlete | Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic: Helping Your Pint-Sized Perfectionist Athlete

Be sure to check out the video above to see the children’s books I’m referencing in today’s talk.

About Me

Hi everyone!  I’m Coach Rebecca Smith, founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching.  We are a group of sports psychology coaches who specialize in working with young athletes.  We help them overcome fear, break through anxiety, find their flow and build confidence. We do with one-on-one coaching over FaceTime or Skype and through our complete online training center, the Perform Happy Community, a growing community of amazing families and committed young athletes.

We come together and learn skills through live trainings, pre-recorded trainings, challenges, and exercises.  We have everything that you need to get you (or your child) up to speed mentally.

Now, if you are reading this transcription, I’ll do my best to make it so that you don’t have to see what we’re looking at here.  Watching the video is ideal because today I’m going to use a children’s book to talk about how to prime the very youngest perfectionists for a successful mindset.

Watch Video Here

I have a three year old gymnast.  She goes to class every week, wears her leotard, does her gymnastics and she deals with fear, anxiety, and perfectionism …  at three.  I’m working to make sure she has the tools that will help her thrive down the road if she chooses to continue with the sport or any other activities.

I have a friend who has a daughter similar to mine in that she is really concerned with doing things right.  She was asking me questions like,

Q:  What do I do with a little perfectionist?  How do I help her to not be so hard on herself?  How do I help her to try when she just wants to give up because she knows she won’t win or be perfect?


Now, I’m going to use my three-year-old as an example here. Although today’s topic will appeal directly to the youngest athletes in the audience, anybody of any age can get the lesson I’m teaching today.

Lessons From Children’s Books

I’ll go over two different books that I’ve discovered in the last week that I started reading and realized, “Oh my gosh, this is what I teach!”

The first one is called I Believe in Myself, written by Laurie Wright.  Here is a little snippet from the book:

“My name is Poppy and I believe in myself.”

“When I have to go out of the room and leave my toy alone I feel anxious.  I’m not sure what to do.”

That’s her problem, right?  She feels anxious.

Then we have these three solutions here…

“I can warn everyone around to not touch it, I can hide my toy, I can just bring it with me.”

“I can figure out what to do.  I believe in myself.”

Confidence Map

This is very similar to an exercise that I do with my athletes in the live trainings.  I’m also putting together a workbook that’s going to have a similar exercise called The Confidence Map.

I also do this with one-on-one clients where we figure out:

What is your goal?

What are your fears?

What are those obstacles that might get in the way?

For example, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”  Or, “Somebody could take my toy.”  Or, “I could get injured, I could have a mental block, my coaches might not be supportive.”

We determine: What’s the fear?  What could go wrong?

Then we come up with three solutions:

3 Solutions

Using the fear of injury as an example:

First, let’s prevent it by checking mats, communicating with coaches, and making sure your environment is nice and safe.

Then, let’s say you do get injured.  You can solve this by going to professionals that will help you heal quickly; listening to what the doctor says, doing your physical therapy; wrapping, icing, all the various ways to heal.

Make sure that you’re visualizing the healing – you’re visualizing what’s going to happen when you’re back in action.  You’re doing reps in your mind that you can’t do physically.  Those would be those three solutions.

After you look at that, you can go, “OK, when I think I might get injured I get anxious and I’m not sure what to do.  I can figure out what to do.  I believe in myself.”

It really is simple.  If you have some ideas of how you can deal with something, you don’t have to feel anxious.

I can Handle it

The next adventure with Poppy:

“When I see a spider I feel panic and I’m not sure I can handle it.”

“I can leave the country, I can try to trap it, I can walk really far around it.”

“I can handle it.”

You might not feel like you can handle it until you think, “Well, how would I handle it?”

I remember back to coaching gymnastics.  There were these kids who would get up to do something simple like a pull-over on the bar where you put your chin up and then you kick your feet over the front.  It’s a skill that’s simple for someone who’s been doing it for a little while but not for somebody who is new.

And these kids would walk up and say, “I can’t do it.”

Then I’d say, “What if you had a jet pack?  What if there was no gravity?  What if I helped you?”

They’d respond with, “Well yeah, then I guess I could.”

What can you do?

That’s the way we want to start looking at it.  Instead of going “Ah!  A spider!” or “Oh no. A scary skill.” or “Oh no, something I don’t think I can do.”  Well, what if you had a jet pack?  What if you had a helper?  What if you had some mats?

How could you do it?  That’s what I’m always teaching people, especially in the Perform Happy Community, because there are a lot of kids working through fear.  I’m reminding them constantly, “What can you do?  What is possible?”  Focusing on that opens the whole world back up.

Then let’s go to the next page:

“When I think there are monsters in my room, I feel scared and I’m not sure I can go to sleep.”

“I can use my stuffies as a monster shield, I can yell a the monsters that I’M NOT SCARED, I can put music on and concentrate on that, I can go to sleep. ”


I work with plenty of kids who have anxiety in their sport.  Often they have trouble going to sleep as well.  Sometimes they don’t know what to think about or their mind is just going to go wild if they don’t give it something to do.

What would you rather do than think about what you’re scared of or what you don’t like?

Could you listen to music?  Sing a song in your head?  Can you count to 10?

What are some things that you could do instead of thinking, “What if?”  “What could go wrong?” “What’s scary?”

I talk to my daughter when she’s in bed, and she doesn’t want to go to sleep.

Then I ask her, “What are four things you could think about instead of not wanting to go to sleep?”

You can think about your Yaya (her stuffed lion – these are her ideas of course).  Then she says things like, “I think about you.  I think about daddy.  I also think about Yaya.  I think about Nana.”  She thinks about her favorite people.

Think of Other Things

If you have a thought that you don’t want to have in your mind like, “Ahhh! What if this happens?!”  Come up with other things to think about: shield yourself with stuffed animals if you need to to keep the negativity out.  Just be creative.

When turning on the right side of your brain, the creativity part, you turn off the left side of your brain that’s analyzing what could go wrong.

Now, back to our book:

“When my brother breaks my building I feel so frustrated.  I’m not sure I can control myself.  I can give up building forever, find a cave to build in where no one can find me, I can forgive my brother because he’s little.”

“I can control myself because I believe in myself.”

On each page she’s not sure if she can handle her emotions.  At the end she remembers, “I believe in myself.”

Helping Your Perfectionist AthleteBelieve in Yourself

We have this little pool sweeper vacuum that we’ve nicknamed the “pool monster.”

When my three year old and I were in the pool yesterday and she got scared and said, “I don’t want to be near the pool monster!”

So I went up to it and yelled, “Get out of my way pool monster!  I’m not scared of you!  I believe in myself!”

Then she repeated, “Yeah!  I believe in myself!  I’m not scared of you pool monster!”  We swam right over it.

Identify the Emotion

First, acknowledge what you’re feeling – “I’m scared to do this skill and of getting hurt.  I’m mad at my coach.”

Then remember the truth – “But I know I’m going to get through it because I believe in myself.”

It’s basically threefold:

1) Identify the emotion.  What is it that’s freaking you out?

2) Then, find some potential solutions.  What are some options of what you can do?

3) Remember at the end of the day, bottom line, tell yourself, “I believe in myself, therefore I’m gonna get through this.”

Is that a stretch for you to actually say, “I believe in myself.  I know I’ll get through this.”

Whether it’s a tiny little problem or a big huge scary one, can you honestly say, “I believe in myself?”

Well, one way to get there is to start believing in yourself actively, vocally.  Even if you don’t believe it yet, say it anyway.  “I believe in myself.”

Continuing on in the book, she goes through jealousy, through freaking out because somebody did something that she wanted to do, gets disappointed, sad, and shy.

She has all of these different emotions, and it’s OK, she can deal with all of them.  She can get through all of the emotions because she believes in herself and because she’s given herself three solutions to every problem.

Write it Out

Try it:

Take out a piece of paper and write down 5 potential roadblocks, these are the things that are getting in the way of getting your goal.  These might be emotions, situations, or things out of your control.

Next to each one of the roadblocks, write three different possible solutions and then remind yourself, “I can handle this.”

I know today was a little bit hokier for the younger audience, but I think people of all ages can learn from this.


Lastly, using affirmations.  Come up with a statement that you can say that pumps you up and reminds you,  “I believe in myself” is great way that you can get your teeny tiny athletes up to speed and feeling good about themselves.

Send me questions to and please join us in the PerformHappy Community.

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I’ll see you next time!

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.