Three Boys Holding Sports BallsYoung athletes carry on an inner dialogue with themselves in sports. It reflects how they think about themselves. For example, they might tell themselves they’re too small, too slow, or not strong enough to be good athletes.

They might tell themselves that everyone hates them. Just after making a bad pass, they might tell themselves that they don’t know how to pass.  After missing a shot, they might tell themselves they’re the worst basketball in the world. This pattern undermines kids’ confidence and success in sports. It makes it hard for them to reach their potential.

As parents and coaches, you can help your athletes change the way they think. Begin by identifying your athlete’s positive attributes. These could include:

  • Getting to practice on time
  • Working hard every day
  • Making good passes
  • Shooting with proper form
  • Playing a smart game
  • Understanding court vision
  • Having natural talent

Begin by helping your young athletes identify the “negative” things they tell themselves, and list these thoughts after games. Next, ask them to banish such thoughts from their minds by replacing them with positive self-talk such as “I am a great shooter, stay patient and practice.” As a third step, ask them to list their positive qualities, and offer to add the list that they created. They should also list positive sports experiences. Let’s say your athlete played with all his heart one day, and it felt really great. What did he do that allowed him to play so well?

Encourage your athletes to hold these positive thoughts and feelings in their mind while they’re performing, practicing or thinking about sports. When negative self-talk creeps into their mind, especially after mistakes, ask them to replace it with positive self-talk. Remind them that they CAN do it, and no one ever has succeeded without failing first.

Remember: Be careful about what you say after a game or practice. Your child might adopt your negative statements as their own negative “internal chatter.” They need to keep the chatter positive!

The way young athletes envision themselves on the court is likely to be expressed in a game scenario. If your players believe in themselves and their abilities, there is no telling how much they will improve and the successes they can achieve. This all comes with practice, hard work, and determination, but starts with a single positive thought.


Subscribe to Email Newsletter
Share this article to...