Trains well but struggles in competition. Sound familiar?

Written by Gordon MacLelland, WWPIS  

A parents nightmare in many ways.  In training your child consistently out performs other players, looks strong and confident, kicks, throws and hits the ball better than most but the moment the competition element kicks in they do a disappearing act faster than Houdini!

For coaches it can be confusing, but for parents it is both confusing and painful and often parents do not know where to turn.  So what can you do as a sporting parent?

You could gently encourage them, allow them to go at their own pace, which would all seem sensible strategies but many parents can struggle at this stage and often resort to yelling or threatening.

Regardless of whether any of these messages are used, there are no guarantees that they will work.  You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as you watch your child struggle with the competition and in some cases the spill over into normal everyday life.

At this stage it is a vital as a parent to look at the best interests of your child as opposed to your desires to see them succeed, this is all the more difficult when you can see them perform so well in training and know they are perfectly capable of executing the skills and decision making that is eluding them.

Many parents can also fall into the trap of thinking that it is something their child is in control of, I can guarantee you that if it was that easy, they would not be making themselves or everyone else around them miserable at competition time.

So what could be causing the issue?

  • Nerves– some children struggle with the thought of others watching them, others just get incredibly nervous.
  • Making mistakes– everyone makes mistakes, that’s how we learn.  However, your children may not know this.
  • Perfectionism– some children are born perfectionists, but it is an elusive goal and can add to the pressure.
  • Disappointing others– your children may not want to disappoint you or their coaches.
  • Lack of belonging– it could be that your children are not totally engaged with the sport or feel like they fit within the group.
  • Scared of getting hurt– this can make your children tentative
  • A worry of losing– some children worry about the reaction of adults if they do not win the game or competition

How can we help manage the above as a parent?

  • Nerves– let them know it is ok to be nervous and it shows that they care.  Let them know that top sportsmen and women also get nervous but can still perform.  Have a consistent match day routine, perhaps play the same music on the way to a game.  Children love familiarity and consistency particularly when heading into the unknown.
  • Making mistakes– let them know that everyone makes mistakes, it is part of the learning process.  Share some of your own mistakes or use examples from the TV.
  • Perfectionism– support your child in focussing on the hard work and improving skills, not worrying too much about the outcome.
  • Disappointing others– Remind your child that they are playing for fun.  Make sure they know you love them and are proud of them on a regular basis regardless of their sporting performance.
  • Lack of belonging– Are they really enjoying the sport they are playing?  Is it right for them?  Do they get on well with the rest of the group?  Is the coaching a positive experience for them?  Keep revisiting these questions and don’t be afraid to move your child if necessary.
  • Scared of getting hurt– Ensure your child is practising safely.  Talk to them about playing the moment rather than worrying about what may happen and set small progress goals, change may not happen overnight.
  • A worry of losing– Ensure they understand why they are playing in the first place.  To have fun and be fit and healthy is a good starting point.  Winning and losing are just part of the game.  Ensure you as a parent are modelling good sportsmanship at all times, your children will soon follow suit.

Guest Blog by Gordon MacLelland – All copyright reserved for WWPIS 

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