Today I’m going to give you a crash course in helping your athlete build confidence in sport.
I love helping parents navigate the sport journey with their kids, because this is not for cupcakes. Let me say that sport parenting is its own sport and should get medals and trophies because it’s just as hard! But today I’m going to help you understand exactly what your athlete needs in order to build up confidence in sport.
There are four inputs that build confidence in sport.
These are the four things that your athlete needs to get a handle on in order to be their very best, to be their most confident, to be their happiest, to be their best in performance. And for each of these inputs, I’m going to talk about what you, the sport parent, can do to contribute to this.
1st Way To Build Confidence In Sport: Physical Training
This one is obvious. In order to build confidence in sport, your athlete must do physical training.
You can’t physically go and get strong for them. You can’t go do the training for them. Obviously this is something they have to do. So your job here is to pay the coaches, drive them to practice, sign them up for private lessons, take them to their competitions, get them special coaching. You do whatever you can do that can help them with the physical aspect so that their body is physically trained for battle.
2nd Way To Build Confidence In Sport: Utilize Rest and Recovery
Now you also cannot sleep for them. You cannot make them sit down. You cannot make them go to sleep. What you can do to help with this rest and recovery piece is you can help to keep the schedule manageable so that you can prioritize sleep. So if you have got your child scheduled in a way that does not allow them to get eight to nine hours of sleep minimum, that is a place that you can help them.
I work with a ton of kids who have fears, anxiety, mental blocks where their bodies are actually freezing up, and they can’t do skills that they have previously been able to do. The quickest way to get them feeling more confident is to get more sleep.
If you have to drop a class, if you have to leave school earlier, work out some special situation with school or if you have to do one last day of practice, then you do that.
I talked with Dr. Shane Krato, who is a peak performance sleep expert. He said that athletes are better off practicing less and sleeping more a lot of the time. You also want to give them downtime to prevent burnout. Go on that vacation. I know some coaches won’t be happy but go on that vacation! Take that week and go to grandma’s. Do the thing that allows the athlete to have that physical rest and recovery. This is so important.
3rd Way To Build Up Confidence In Sport: Optimize Nutrition and Hydration
Nutrition and hydration are very important to your athlete’s confidence in sport. If your athlete is not resting or isn’t feeding themselves properly and hydrating, they can’t be as confident because their brain is running on fumes. And if their brain is running on fumes, they don’t have that wherewithal to get out of their comfort zone and really get aggressive or they lack that little extra bit of energy that makes all the difference.
So what you can do is learn for yourself what your athlete needs in the different stages of training and the different times a day. And then you can set them up for success by having the right ingredients in your house.
I know some of you have teenagers who are like ships passing in the night and maybe you’re making food for them. Or maybe they’re making their own food. In either case, knowing what they need, and then having those ingredients in the house.
4th Way To Build Confidence In Sport: Mental training
Your athlete can train her body. She can rest it. She can feed it well and she can hydrate it.
But if she misses the mental training piece, she’s not going to have maximum confidence in sport or optimal peak performance.
In some families, mom plays the sports psychologist and is the mental coach in the car. She’ll say things like: “We’re going to do affirmations and let’s be really positive.” Some times it is dad who does that. It doesn’t matter who does it as long as your athlete focuses on that part of training.
Some people outsource it because mom is sick of playing therapist. And that’s exactly where we come in with PerformHappy.
But mental training is a critical part of the athlete. Confidence, which is why you’re even listening to this, is so important to an athlete’s performance.
Often, in adolescence, teenagers meet their parents with resistance. When mom or dad suggest they work on mental training for their sport, they might already “know everything” and not want to work on mental training. To them, they just want to be twelve. They don’t want to do all that mental training stuff.
So how do we get around that resistance as parents?
Unfortunately telling your athlete how you feel or your thoughts around it or your reasons why they should do something often doesn’t work because they don’t care. Those thoughts, feelings, or reasons do not change people’s behavior. You can’t just help your athlete by asking her to behave differently and then she changes. That’s not how it works.
And of course, teenagers like to push back so if you give them anything to push back upon, they’ll push back. That’s literally their job through their developmental time. They’re supposed to be feeling out what it’s like to be different and separate from you and to not need your help and not want your help.
So with that in mind, it’s easy to feel stuck between a rock and hard place where you know that your athlete needs this, but she’s resisting it. And if you tell her to do it, she’s going to be even less likely to want to do it.
What do we do with these children who we adore and love and who drive us so nuts sometimes? Here’s what you do.
You ask better questions and you listen more.
In order to really allow your athlete to tune into what she needs, you have to help her find her own reasons to want to change. She doesn’t care about your reasons. You have to help your athlete find her reason.
There are three things that you as a parent can focus on to help your athlete be more receptive to mental training.
Number one is strengthening your bond of trust.
That’s the key in relationships here. If you are the authoritarian, who’s always telling them to do things, then their internal motivation is going to go down. They might be compliant until up to age 10 or 11. Then when they get to about 12, they’re like, maybe I don’t want to do it your way. That’s their job. That’s their task. So instead of being their coach, think of it like you’re their teammate.
And you’re like, “How are you? How’s this going? What do you think?” You just focus on the trust in that relationship rather than your outcome. You want her to sleep more but you want to make sure that you’re working together to find a good solution. So your job is not to motivate your child to do what you want them to do. But to instead to enhance their internal motivation and to change by exploring any little inconsistencies in their thought processes.
So what we do is we go in and say “Here’s what I see you’re doing. This is amazing.” And you build that relationship. You build that trust you. And you show them what you like about what they’re doing.
And when you have a relationship in place, then they actually want to come to you and go, “I don’t know, mom, what do you think?” So that first thing to do is strengthen the bond of trust and build that relationship.
Number two is to gather info.
If you don’t actually know what’s going on, you’re not going to be able to transmit that to them. So you want to get more information about what’s going on in your athlete. Ask curious questions. You might find out that there’s a whole thing in the gym where all the kids only eat a certain thing because somebody said somebody saw something on social media. Or they have a friend who’s grounded and can only talk at night. And so they’re texting at night.
You want to know and get really curious about all kinds of stuff. But with that understanding and love as the foundation. You’re not judging. You are collaborating and you’re showing unconditional love. You’re asking really great questions that are open-ended and not yes or no questions. And you’re listening.
Also, it’s important to know that you’re not going to change your child in one car ride or with one really great question. This is something that builds over time.
Number three is self-care.
Getting support from other like-minded parents can be very helpful. You can journal. If you feel like you don’t have a safe place where you can vent in a constructive way, then journaling is important.
You can ask yourself things like ‘Why is this so stressful for you? Why is it that I need her to sleep?’
We have our own stuff that colors every parenting decision that we make. So having your own therapist or your journal or a group of like-minded people can be very helpful because that can help you find neutral. Neutral is where you can look at just facts and data and it doesn’t have to be judgment. We’re just trying to get our kids raised in the happiest, healthiest, most confident way.
And then you can also find some positive distractions. Pay attention to something else. If thinking about your athlete’s sport stresses you the heck out, then watch a new show, call a friend, go for a walk, do something else that gives you enough time to get some space from the freak out.
Now, in the meantime, as you’re building this relationship and you’re asking those great questions and you’re building that trust and you’re taking care of yourself, you can also be increasing your understanding about those four inputs that help build confidence in sport.
You can learn how much downtime an athlete needs. Or take time to research the nutrition that can support the growing body of your athlete. Learn what perspective change will help them thrive under pressure.
So that way you’re building your relationship and you’re getting your info. And then when they come to you, you will be ready. You’ll have the answer and you’ll go, “Yeah, I’ve actually looked into this. I think if we did this, it would be very useful.” That’s better than you cramming it down their throat when they’re not ready for it. That is a sure fire to cause them to want to push back.
So this is one of the main reasons why I have set up the PerformHappy community the way I did. We started PerformHappy for sport parents with Q and A’s and trainings for parents. And then all the parents didn’t want to be the sports psychologist anymore and asked me to take over so they could just be mom.
Now we teach the mental training to the kids so that parents don’t have to. But we also teach parents about all of the inputs too. Definitely come check out the PerformHappy community.