Developing Coping Skills and Poise in Youth Athletes – 13 Tips

Author and former major leaguer Jack Perconte third book for youth coaches, ‘Creating a Season to Remember: The New Youth- Sports-Coaching Leadership Handbook,’ provides concrete solutions for adults to help kids in sports and life. Get it now – you won’t be disappointed.
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I wish I had worked on developing coping skills at a young age, or had the help to do just that. I hate to admit it, but there were times early in my major league career that I played scared on the baseball field. I was so afraid I would screw up that my concentration level was not where it should have been. With that weak mental outlook, the result was exactly that – I screwed up.With many youth athletes, the same occurs. Fear of failure and letting mom and dad down are difficult things for youth to overcome. Disappointment can be overwhelming enough for them to want to quit playing.” Jack Perconte

If only youth coaches knew how to help athletes deal with their trepidation productively, many more kids would continue playing. When coaches help kids deal with their fears, youth show poise beyond their years. Following are Jack Perconte’s 13 suggestions coaches can use.

Before and after games, coaches should:

1.      Separate what players do on the field and “who they are” by treating them as more than athletes.

2.      Make sure players realize that perfection is unattainable and not expected.

3.      Inform the athletes you believe they will give their best as often as they can.

4.      Let kids know that failure is a setback only when they do nothing about it and that staying focused on their goals is the key to satisfaction.

5.      Encourage players to embrace challenges and take chances.

During practice and games coaches can do these for developing coping skills:

6.      Enact the tense game-situations, which gives players a sense of “been there before.” Experience helps kids focus, relax, and execute the next time.

7.      Show little emotion after mistakes. Players are brave when they feel like they won’t disappoint the coach.

8.      Help players realize they cannot change past plays and that dwelling on them does not help.

9.      Assist athletes in learning ways of keeping their mind in the present. Explain that the desired fearless demeanor will not happen when thinking of past and possible future failure.

10.  Teach kids to understand that every play and game’s outcomes are independent of previous ones.

After games coaches should do these for developing coping skills: 

developing coping skills

Keys to developing coping skills

11.  Remind players that games involve many plays, and no one individual play causes a loss.

12.  Remind athletes that they are part of a team and that no one player determines the game’s results.

13.  Inform players that other team members are there to pick them up when they fail because that’s what a team is all about.

Of course, it’s a season-long process to help kids’ develop coping skills and poise, but once they do, it gives them composure for endeavors beyond the playing fields.

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