One of my biggest pet peeves that I have in youth sports is when parents or coaches rip the confidence away from a young athlete.
It bugs me to the core and should never happen but (unfortunately) it does.
As a person of influence, what you do and say can have a lasting impact on a child. This can be the fuel for their success or the catalyst to kill their confidence.
In my opinion, we should help inspire and motivate our youth to become better players and people. If we can accomplish this in our lifetime, I think we can rest peacefully at night.
In this article, I’ll lay out all the ways we can demotivate and kill a child’s confidence. I’ll also share ways in which we can lift kids to become their best selves.
Ways to Crush a Kid’s Confidence [Avoid This]
As a coach or parent, it is important to understand that young soccer players need a supportive and nurturing environment to build their confidence.
However, certain behaviors can undermine a young player’s self-confidence. Here they are…
…avoid these at all costs.
Too Much Individual Criticism
Criticism is an important part of learning and improving, but excessive criticism can be detrimental to a young player’s self-confidence.
When you criticize a young player too much, they may start to doubt their abilities and feel like they can never do anything right. This can lead to a lack of confidence and a fear of making mistakes.
Instead of focusing on the negative, try to give constructive feedback.
Point out what the player did well and then offer suggestions for improvement. This will help the player feel like they are making progress and build their confidence.
When a player feels like they can never meet your expectations, they may start to feel like a failure and lose confidence in their abilities. This can also lead to a fear of making mistakes and taking risks.
Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, set achievable goals for the player.
Small, quick wins can help accelerate a person’s confidence. Help them break down their goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. This will help the player feel like they are making progress and build their confidence up.
Negative Comparison to Peers
When you compare a player to someone else, they may feel like they are not good enough and start to doubt their abilities.
Try to avoid telling a kid that they can be as good as another kid on a team. This can sometimes lead to a lack of confidence and a fear of making mistakes.
Instead of comparing players to each other, focus on individual progress.
Celebrate each player’s unique strengths and help them work on their weaknesses. This will help each player feel valued and build their confidence.
Stifling Growth and Development
As a coach or parent of a young soccer player, you have a great responsibility to help your player develop both their skills and their confidence. Unfortunately, there are several ways you can inadvertently stifle their growth and development. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
Lack of Positive Reinforcement
One of the most damaging things you can do to a young soccer player’s confidence is to fail to provide positive reinforcement.
When a player does something well, it’s important to acknowledge and praise their efforts. This can be as simple as saying “good job” or “nice work.”
Without positive reinforcement, players may begin to feel like they’re not good enough or that their efforts don’t matter.
It may be out of your comfort zone, but just try it and watch the smile on their faces.
Ignoring Individual Strengths
Every person has their own strengths and weaknesses. As a coach or parent, it’s important to recognize and cultivate those strengths.
If you focus solely on a player’s weaknesses, they may begin to feel like they’re not good enough overall.
Young players should double down on their strengths and gradually work on their weaknesses. Quick progress will come in the way of maximizing what you are good at.
Overemphasis on Mistakes
While it’s important to acknowledge and correct mistakes, focusing too much on them can be detrimental to a player’s confidence.
If you constantly point out a player’s mistakes without also acknowledging their successes, they may begin to feel like they stink. I know this isn’t what it intended but some kids sometimes perceive it that way.
Instead, try to provide constructive feedback that focuses on both the positives and the areas that need improvement.
What to Do Instead…
As a parent or coach of a young soccer player, it’s important to instill confidence in them rather than tear it down. Here are some tips on what to do instead of killing their confidence:
- Encourage them: Constantly provide positive feedback and encouragement to keep practicing and improving. Let them know that you fully believe in them and their abilities.
- Focus on effort: I love this one. Rather than solely focusing on the outcome of a game or practice, focus on the effort they put in. Acknowledge their hard work and dedication, regardless of the outcome. This is more controllable for them.
- Set achievable goals: Help them set realistic goals that they can work towards. Celebrate their progress along the way and help them adjust their goals as needed.
- Emphasize teamwork: Encourage teamwork and emphasize that soccer is a team sport. Help them understand that everyone has a role to play and that each player’s contribution is important. A win or loss isn’t the direct result of one player.
- Provide constructive feedback: When providing feedback, focus on specific areas for improvement and provide constructive criticism. Avoid general statements that can be demotivating or confusing.
It is extremely rewarding to see a shy kid flourish into a confident teen. As a soccer coach, you are in a position to instill work ethic and other positive attributes for a young athlete.
As a parent, if you find that your son or daughter’s coach is putting down kids or constantly criticizing them, you should step in. This is your kid’s future and they’ll look to you for answers.
You need to be your child’s advocate.
Find a reputable team with a positive coach. As the years go by, you’ll find that coaches tend to get tougher but if progress is on the right path, they will have the confidence to see it through!