How to Help Young Athletes Keep Their Cool

As parents and coaches, you can help kids learn to stay composed during a game, even after making a mistake. Here are three mental strategies that can help your young athlete keep his or her cool.

Manage Expectations

The root of the problem for many young athletes is unrealistic performance expectations. When kids have lofty goals like winning every game or making every shot, they set themselves up for failure. Instead, help your kids set attainable, short-term goals. Encourage them to focus on simple tasks that they can accomplish often, which will help them build confidence. Short-term goals help athletes focus on execution instead of results.

More: 3 Goal-Setting Tips for Kids

Don't Dwell on Mistakes

Ultimately, you want your athletes to let go of things that are beyond their control—especially the things that trigger frustration, such as poor officiating. Trigger is the key word here because two athletes can react differently to the same scenario.

A bad call might upset one athlete, while another athlete might simply let it go and focus on the next play. Once again, you have to look beneath the behavior and examine the underlying cause, which is generally related to beliefs and expectations. When an athlete gets upset about an individual call or play, he or she most likely believes that this single circumstance will affect the entire outcome of the game. The player who remains calm, however, realizes that he can't control a bad call or shot, and he can let it go and continue playing.

More: 5 Ways for Young Athletes to Build Confidence

Help Athletes Accept Mistakes

As a parent or coach, how can you help your kids learn to accept mistakes so that they don't become frustrated, shut down, or throw tantrums during competition? First, teach your kids that making mistakes is an inevitable part of sports. Second, help them understand that as humans, we're prone to errors and we're not perfect. Third, teach your kids to see mistakes and adversity as opportunities to improve. No toddler learns to walk without falling down first; encourage progress over perfection.

More: 5 Book for Parents and Young Athletes

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