Life is full of ups and downs. So are youth sports.
If your son or daughter participates in athletics, they will, at some point, lose, face adversity and be disappointed. Participating in sports gives young people the opportunity to learn how to overcome disappointment and adversity in a safe and controlled environment.
Successfully overcoming obstacles is one of the most important life skills adults can teach youngsters. Coaches and parents must recognize there will be peaks and valleys when their child is involved in sports. The valleys offer tremendous teaching moments that will last a lifetime.
Here are three ways coaches and parents can help young athletes handle disappointment and adversity:
• Avoid negative and physical displays.
One of the most important things kids can control when facing adversity is their own behavior – how they react, as well as what they say and do. Before athletic contests, stress to players they have no control over the officials, fans and their opponents. There will be plays and officials’ calls that go for your team and against your team. Also, there might be bad behavior from fans and opponents that frustrates or upsets your players. Discuss with them how to behave when these things happen. Players are to keep quiet, avoid any negative or rude gestures and stay focused on the game and what they’re supposed to do.
• Learn from the situation.
Tell your players that disappointment and setbacks are simply “speed bumps” in the road. Everyone hits one at some point or another. Speed bumps might jostle you around a bit and slow you down, but they don’t have to keep you from moving forward. It is important for young people to learn that no matter how bad things seem, they will get better over time. Adults must connect the dots and help youngsters learn the lesson that they can’t just quit just because things aren’t going their way. Wins and losses just aren’t that important; what is important is that kids learn to stay upbeat and positive and give maximum effort no matter the circumstances.
• Work harder.
In addition to what they say and do in reacting to adversity, there are two more things kids can control: preparation and effort. Some young people are locked into results and get discouraged easily when they don’t hit the mark. Every athlete and every team loses at some point. If your child is upset about their performance or the team’s results, talk to them about their preparation and effort. If they are preparing as well as possible and giving their best effort in practices and games, then they are controlling what they can. This is all coaches and parents can expect from them. If they are not maximizing their effort, then work harder!
It's important that parents use athletics as a teaching platform for handling disappointment and overcoming adversity. In youth sports, players use this skill by avoiding negative outward displays, learning from the situation and working harder.
Without this skill, youngsters can get lost and spiral into a cycle of disappointment, setback and failure. Learning how to conquer life’s frustrations and challenges enables young people to accomplish great things – even when they face obstacles.
Kevin Kush of Boys Town wrote this guest blog for momaha.com. Kush has been a teacher and coach for more than two decades and is widely recognized as an outstanding motivational speaker. He has been honored as an ABC News “Person of the Week” for leading his Boys Town High School team of at-risk youth to an undefeated regular season. He is also the co-author of "Competing with Character," where he examines the good and the bad going on today on youth playing fields, along the sidelines, and in the stands. "Competing with Character" is a guide to creating an environment where character, sportsmanship and fun are once again priorities youth sports.