TrueSport Resources

 How to Celebrate Wins When One Kid Isn't Winning
(3/26/2020)
 
   

How to Celebrate Wins When One Kid Isn't Winning


Helping your athlete prioritize progress


A young athlete’s teammates, siblings, coaches, and teachers can leave a lasting impression, but parents have the greatest impact on how a child feels about his or her performance in sport, says Joel Fish, PhD, sports psychologist and author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent. 

When you have two or more children in sports, it can be a challenge to give each one the same level of positive attention — especially when one seems to be winning all the time, while the other is struggling. Fish shares advice on how to find the right balance between celebrating success and prioritizing progress rather than just winning. 

 Praise Effort Not Results  

It’s natural to be excited about a win, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating it, says Fish. “But focus more on your core values versus results: make sure you’re praising other successes, like developing new skills or putting in a strong effort. You have a great opportunity to teach children multiple goals — there are other ways to define success that aren’t results-driven.” 

This applies to both your winning child and the one who’s struggling in sport — it’s a great way to give both children equal amounts of praise and attention. 

 Check Your Reaction  

Understanding how important your reaction is, and becoming aware of it, can go a long way towards promoting good behaviors on your part. 

“You have an immediate emotional reaction when a child wins, or when one loses,” Fish says. “That’s the main issue — and if you can pay attention to how you’re feeling and reacting, what your reaction is to success or failure, then you’re better able to manage those feelings and give a more value-driven response." 

Make Sure Everyone Gets What They Need  

It can be a challenge to manage a budding career for a highly talented young athlete while making sure that his or her siblings are still thriving as well. Some sports, like figure skating, involve immense amounts of travel and even potential relocation, and Fish notes that it’s important to take your other children into account in those times. 

That may mean a larger family discussion about moving to a different city, or, on a smaller scale, simply making sure that your other children also have activities that they’re passionate about, even if they aren’t getting the same kind of results. 

 Consider Shifting Focus  

“If your child who is struggling or not having success in sport still enjoys being on the team and having fun, that’s great,” says Fish. “But remember, that child can also consider exploring other sports if he or she isn’t having fun. Parents get stuck trying to channel kids into one certain sport but there’s a huge range of activities for kids to get involved in. I’ve seen kids go from team sports to something like cycling and really flourish, so you may want to try other sports and keep in mind that what one of your children likes, the other may not.” 

 Be Mindful of the Winning Child  

You may think that the biggest challenge is making sure that the athletes who aren’t winning don’t suffer from a lack of self-esteem because of their talented sibling, but the child who’s winning deals with immense pressures as well. 

Even though your focus should be on effort, give praise when either your athletes achieve something great – like a win. A win is still a win, and your athlete should be recognized for the hard work they contributed to achieve that. 

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“There’s a lot more prestige connected to winning now, compared to 30 years ago when the mentality was more centered around the motto, ‘it’s not about if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,’” says Fish. Today, the landscape has shifted for how parents view youth sports. Winning has meaning to it. So, when one sibling wins, and another doesn’t, that’s a challenge for parents in a way that it never was before. 

Excitement around a win and disappointment around a loss for your kids are both completely normal feelings, says Fish. Just remember that as a parent, it’s your job to also make sure that your child doesn’t feel as though your love and approval is conditional on their results in sport. 


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 What You Can Do to Stop the Cycle of Disrespect in Sports
(2/27/2020)
 
   

What You Can Do to Stop the Cycle of Disrespect in Sports 


Ways to teach respect in youth sports


As a parent of an athlete, part of your job is to make sure that your child has learned to be respectful to his teammates, competitors, and coaches. You also are responsible for making sure that your child knows how to stand up for themselves when they are feeling disrespected within their sport. 

Wade Gilbert, PhD, a professor at California State University in Fresno and a Team USA Coaching Consultant, shares his recommendations for parents on teaching respect to an athlete.

Focus on your behavior first

You may not even realize that your behavior at a game isn’t respectful, but be aware of how you act when you’re spectating. 

“A lot of disrespectful behavior is learned from what a child sees from his or her parents,” warns Gilbert. “That means, post-game if you’re being disrespectful towards the other players on the team, the coach, the opposing team, or the referee, you’re teaching your child that it’s the correct reaction. Ask yourself what a good sport parent should look like during the game, and what they look like after the game.” 

Pre-set boundaries and rules

If you can, Gilbert recommends asking your athlete’s coach to hold a pre-season meeting where the team sits down as a group and sets specific rules and boundaries for behavior, as well as consequences for breaking those rules. That way, there aren’t any surprises when an athlete is sent to the bench for yelling at a competitor during a game. 

You can do this at home with your athlete before the season starts as well. Have a conversation about what your athlete will do if they see another player being disrespected, if they’re being bullied, and any other scenarios that might come up throughout the year. 

Validate your athlete’s emotions

If your athlete is acting disrespectful (but not harmful), first seek to understand how they’re feeling. Remember, while a minor incident may seem silly to you as a parent, your child's feelings are still valid, even if you don’t understand what they’re upset about. 

Try to allow space for your child to work through their feelings and calm down before offering advice or disciplining them. “Give them space to learn to cope with injustice and failure,” says Gilbert. “Understand that it’s OK for your child to have these emotions."

Help your athlete, but don’t take over

“During a competition, parents should not be involved,” says Gilbert. “It’s a hard thing, but there’s nothing you can or should do in the moment. You can have a conversation with the coach after the game if you observe something happening on the field, or work with your athlete to come up with a solution. Kids need to learn to cope with the messiness of life, and that’s one of the best lessons from youth sport.” 

You’re not helping your athlete by taking over situations for them. Instead, help them figure out how to tackle a tough situation, whether that means having a conversation with a teammate they aren’t getting along with, talking to a coach about a teammate saying something disrespectful, or going to a school administrator if a coach is bullying another athlete. 

Reassess the sport 

Sometimes, disrespect can come from discontent. You may think that your child loves baseball, but actually, he wanted to play soccer and he’s miserable on the team, so he’s acting rude to teammates and the coach. 

Research has shown that forcing a child to specialize in a specific sport can lead to worse moods, stress, and fatigue, all of which can lead to an athlete acting out. If your athlete is constantly battling with other players on their team or opposing teams, getting in fights with the coach, or generally acting disrespectful to the people on the field, it may be a deeper problem. Stepping away from the sport may help the athlete refocus and find a new passion instead. 

Stopping the cycle of disrespect in sports is crucial to creating a fun, safe, and positive experience for all young athletes. As parents, you can hold yourself and your athletes accountable for being respectful, even when emotions are high.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 Why The Way You Praise Matters
(2/13/2020)
 
   

Why The Way You Praise Matters


Helping your athlete feel valued


Whether you’re a coach or parent to a young athlete, the way that you praise them after a competition can have a deep impact. Wade Gilbert, PhD, a professor at California State University in Fresno and a Team USA Coaching Consultant, has some advice on how to praise your athlete in a way that will have the most beneficial impact on their sport and psyche. 

Don’t offer false praise
 
“False praise is the worst thing a parent can give – the best type of praise is genuine praise,” says Gilbert. “If you want to praise kids, it should be genuine and earned. If the praise isn’t earned, don’t say anything. We overcomplicate things by thinking we need to say something positive about everything.” 

Focus on process, not results 

Studies have shown that parents shouldn’t focus on grades that their children receive – instead, focus on the way that they’re playing and performing. And as a coach in particular, the way you praise an athlete based on outcome versus progress can change how your athlete views success. If you only praise your athletes after games they win, Gilbert warns that the athletes will learn to focus on the outcome rather than the skills it takes to perform at a high level. 

Help them master their skills

Student athletes tend to have higher self-confidence long after they’ve left high school. “But confidence doesn’t come from false praise,” says Gilbert. “It comes when an athlete feels competent. So, if your athlete is getting better, that’s how their confidence will build. To pump up confidence, focus on teaching skills rather than praising them.” 

Praise what’s in their control

It can be tempting to point out how a young athlete ‘destroyed the other team' or ‘crushed the competition.’ But that puts an emphasis on the negative side of sport, versus praising the athlete’s personal performance. 

“You want to reinforce the positive things that they’re doing and that they can control, not things that are dependent on how other athletes perform. And in team sports, parents shouldn’t put down other athletes on the team while praising their own child.”

Follow your athlete's lead

“After the game, don’t start with a breakdown of how you thought it went,” says Gilbert. “Ask how your athlete felt about the game and let the conversation flow from that.” 

Sometimes your athlete doesn’t need praise, they may just need to quietly contemplate how the game went, or even talk through what went wrong during the competition. 

Praise others on the field

Gilbert recommends pointing out great plays by other athletes as well as your own. “We think we’re doing a favor by protecting them and offering this false praise, but really what we should be doing is talking about what an athlete did well, and also about what other athletes did. It’s OK to point out another player on the team, or on the opposing team, who had a great game,” says Gilbert. “That helps teach your child how to handle losses and wins more gracefully."

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Gilbert concludes by recommending that coaches “make a checklist for pre and post-game routines, and a checklist for how often he or she is praising individual athletes on the team to make sure you’re paying attention to everyone.”

He adds, “You have to be proactive about making sure everyone on the team is being acknowledged," says Gilbert. It’s so easy to miss a quieter athlete during a season, but every athlete on the team should end the year feeling valued for their progress, skill development, and attitude.   


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 How to Help Athletes Be Confident In Tough Situations
(1/16/2020)
 
   

How To Help Athletes Have Confidence in Tough Situations



As a young athlete, your child is occasionally faced with big decisions, as well as hundreds of smaller scale decisions on a regular basis. Parents should not only teach good decision-making habits and strategies, but also help their athletes feel confident about making tough decisions.

Dr. Carl Pickhardt, PhD, practicing psychologist and author of 15 books on parenting, including his most recent book, WHO STOLE MY CHILD? Parenting through four stages of adolescence, shares his expertise on how to teach your young athletes how to feel confident about their decisions, from the early days of T-ball all the way through college visits.
 
Teach your athlete to recognize decisions when they’re being made

To be confident about making tough decisions, a child needs to learn how to make smaller, simpler decisions for themselves from a young age. “You don’t empower younger athletes to feel like they can make their own decisions; you empower them by helping them recognize all the athletic decisions they are already making for themselves,” says Pickhardt. “This is the personal power base you want them to be able to build upon.”

Helping a child become decisive during practice or games can help to build a strong, resolute nature that will later be used for more than just game-day small-scale decisions. Pickhardt adds that the younger a student is when he starts making decisions for himself, the easier it will be to make complex decisions later on. Think of decision-making like a muscle that needs to be worked out and regularly used to stay strong. The stronger that muscle gets, the more confident your athlete will be in their decisions.
 
Help your child see the importance of consequences

“Decisions can determine direction, and setting one’s own direction can feel satisfying,” says Pickhardt. Children often don’t feel that they have true decision-making power, so when a choice is within their control, make sure you’re explaining how and why the decision matters.
“Choosing shows what one cares about, but also brings with it the risk of disappointment,” Pickhardt adds. “Choosing is also losing — time and energy spent on activity X means time not spent on activities Y and Z, and so this brings the risk of regret.” For example, a young athlete can choose to focus on soccer or track for the spring season.

Because they must choose one thing over the other, children often don’t want to make a decision or will avoid making one. But athletes will gain self-confidence by making these tough choices, so don’t try to force your child into a decision that you think is the right one.
 
Acknowledge the difficulty of making choices

From an adult perspective, some choices seem obvious to you — but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to your child, and that’s okay. “If the child wavers back and forth or keeps changing their mind, they may be experiencing honest ambivalence — wanting and not wanting to do something at the same time,” says Pickhardt.
Be patient, and don’t push your athlete toward a decision that you want, but instead, help your athlete come to their own choice. “All decisions are partly an entry into the unexpected,” Pickhardt reminds parents. “Thinking through decision-making is important because by predicting possible outcomes before deciding, one can evaluate a possible decision before choosing it.”

You can help your young athlete by teaching smart decision-making tactics, like listing out pros and cons of different options, and by looking back at similar decisions that they’ve made in the past. Remember, an adolescent’s emotional intelligence is still developing, and they may not yet have all the tools to make a rational, thought-out decision.
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It’s tempting to simply equate confidence in a decision with making the ‘right’ decision, or a feeling of sureness. But unfortunately, most decisions aren’t black-and-white.

Things like focusing on a club team versus a school team, or choosing a college to attend, won’t be simple choices with an obvious right or wrong answer. “Rather, confidence in hard decision-making is not so much being sure of the outcome, but being secure that whatever the outcome, you will be okay and glad you gave it a try,” says Pickhardt. “That’s true confidence.”


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 What To Do When Your Athlete Needs a Sports Break
(1/2/2020)
 
   

What To Do When Your Athlete Needs a Sports Break


In youth sports 


When your young athlete needs a break from their sport, it’s your job as a parent to support them and help guide them through this challenging time. Steve Smith, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at UC Santa Barbara, works with parents and young athletes as they navigate sporting life, and he’s seen many athletes take breaks from a specific sport before returning the next season stronger and happier than ever.

Here’s what he wants parents to know:
 
Don’t panic

It’s easy to start catastrophizing when your child needs to take a break or wants to try something different. “Talking with parents about this can be a real challenge, because many get so heavily invested in their child’s participation or results in one given season,” says Smith.

“There’s good research that shows kids need breaks from sport and pushing too hard can often end in outcomes that no one wants.” Don’t forget, a break isn’t always because of a physical injury – your athlete might need a mental and emotional break as well. Everyone can burn out from pushing beyond their limits, both physical and emotional, even at a young age.
 
Be aware of your response

For some parents, it can be hard to accept that your athlete needs a break. On a conscious level, you may not even be aware of how you’re reacting, but your young athlete might sense your disappointment.
“Parents will say they’re OK with the child taking a break, but the child will tell me, ‘If I take time off, my parents will be disappointed,’” says Smith. “Parents are communicating something different to their child than what they’re saying, and it can be really confusing.”
 
Find an expert

The hardest part of helping an athlete take a break from sports can be the initial conversation. You may not want to be the one who tells your athlete they need a break – and honestly, many pre-teens and teens are disinclined to listen to you anyway. Smith recommends seeking out an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor, sports psychologist, or physical therapist, who can assess and explain the reason for taking some time off.
“It’s helpful to have a third party involved. A sports medicine doctor can help explain to a young athlete that six weeks off now can lead to six years of strong play,” he adds. “A coach can also help here, telling an athlete that leaving is only temporary and they still have a place on the team.”
 
Make an active recovery plan

Many athletes and parents panic at the idea of a break, simply because there isn’t a firm timeline or plan in place. This especially true for young athletes who are told to take time off but may not be given a strategic recovery plan that involves low-impact exercises, physical therapy, or mental wellness activities.

Depending on the situation, a coach may be able to help create this plan in tandem with a doctor, physical therapist, or even a sports psychologist. However, Smith notes that not every athlete wants to immediately return to sport, so if your child seems uninterested in a return, don’t force it.
 
Help your athlete keep in touch

Staying connected with coaches and teammates can be hugely beneficial. “Often, a child’s teammates are their closest friends, and suddenly he’s not seeing them every day at practice, and it can feel like his friends are moving on without him,” says Smith.
Keeping in touch with a coach can also help with a child’s motivation and eventual return to sport, and it keeps the coach connected so he knows when the athlete will be able to return to play.
 
Find similar athletes

“There are so many great blogs and online resources out there created by athletes who’ve had the same hurdle as your child,” says Smith. “Search for those so you can show your athlete that he’s not alone in needing a break, whether it’s due to injury, burnout, or even just to pursue another sport or hobby. There’s always a success story that you can point to.”
 
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The hardest part for both parents and athletes on a break from sport is that suddenly, time opens up. For a lot of young athletes, hours after school and on weekends are dedicated to practice and competition, and the new free time can be daunting.
Let your athlete take a few days to indulge or recover with some time spent relaxing but try to find ways to fill the time after the first week, says Smith. “Find a new activity that can be life-enhancing so that time can be really enriching,” he suggests. That may mean joining a new club at school or spending time as a family doing things like hiking or taking a class together.
Parents also may find themselves at a loss when, suddenly, they aren’t driving to and from practice and competition. This is a good chance for you to take some time for yourself, perhaps restarting your own exercise regimen or spending more time at home. “Know that you deserve a break, too,” Smith adds.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.