TWELVE TIPS TO HELP PARENTS TRAIN MENTAL TOUGHNESS IN THEIR CHILDREN
1. Make them responsible for their gear.
Athletes at a young age need to learn to pick up for themselves. If needed, buy them a large equipment bag (bat bag) to help them organize and keep up with gloves, bats, batting gloves, etc. It amazes me to watch parents pick up the equipment and take it to the car while their child carries nothing but a drink bottle. It’s hard for a player that that lacks discipline and responsibility to develop mental toughness and discipline needed in a game.
2. If they forget something, don’t go home and get it.
Making your child responsible for their own gear also means they are responsible for packing the gear and getting it to practice each day. Teach FOCUS and preparation before leaving the house. If they know you are unwilling to go home every time something is forgotten, they will take extra time and care to make sure everything is packed and ready. If you’re practicing in the morning time, have them pack everything the night before. Of course, you may ask them when you get in the car about their gear and quiz them before you leave the garage.
3. Don’t run to the dugout each inning with drink bottles, energy bars, or advice.
Before the game starts, make sure your child has plenty of water or sports drink. Hopefully, they will have a cooler in the dugout, but even if there is not one, don’t be tempted to run check on the every inning. If needed, you can ask the coach if they need help organizing the parents to bring a drink cooler and cups each game. But during the game, try your best to stay away from the dugout that goes for eye contact and hand gestures also. This may be hard to do at first, but with a little practice you’ll find it easier and you both will be able to enjoy the game more.
4. Try not to carry on a conversation with them during the game.
Your child needs to focus on the game and listen to the coach’s instructions. Don’t confuse them by continuing to give them your critique. If you are constantly giving them extra things to compute in their brains during the game it will frustrate them and cause a division between you. This will cause them to lose focus and even not try hard in some situations. Talk about it positively on the way home, but don’t nag them. If they don’t want to discuss it, then give them some time. If you want your child to discuss the game/practices with you they must feel you care and not that you’re telling them what to do or nagging. Let them talk and you listen, offering advice as they talk.
5. Arrive early to practice and games.
Find out what time the coach wants them to arrive, then be 10-15 minutes ahead of time. Allow your child time to get their gear to the dugout and possibly working on a skill with the extra time such as bunting, base running, catching ground balls, etc… Your child will be more relaxed and focused if they are not rushed. The coach will take notice and your child will feel good about what they are doing. You are also developing an important trait in your child for the future.
6. Encourage your child to hustle and play hard.
Ask your child if they give their best each day at practice and games. Try to go and watch practice if possible. Be realistic if you recognize that your child is not giving their best. Ask the coach their take on whether your child is giving their best. Some things to look for are hustling out ground balls hit to the infield, running on/off the field between innings, not dragging around after making an out or making an error in the field. I can remember as a youngster my dad would always ask me “Did you do your best today” when we got in the car. I always wanted to be able to answer yes!
7. Don’t badger the coach
Make your child responsible to their coach. If there is an issue, ask your child to speak with the coach after practice. This will help them to build a relationship with their coach and foster a trust for authorities.
8. If you have a problem with the coach, don’t let your child know.
If you have a problem and need to talk with the coach, do so when your child is not around. Try not to announce to the child that you are meeting with the coach. Once that conversation has been completed, help your child in addressing the situation in a positive manner.
9. Teach your child to respect authority.
There is an old saying, “more is caught than taught”, and this is true when it comes to respecting others, especially those in authority. Your child will take your lead. If you are always complaining about authority (the boss at work to the President of the United States) then expect your child to do like-wise. Teaching them the importance of respecting those in authority in their lives begins at a young age. Thank-you, yes sir, etc… can be powerful tools in getting ahead in life. Also, teach your child to speak clearly and look the authority in the eyes when speaking to them no matter what the circumstances may be.
10. Body language is LOUD
Remind your child about their body language. Don’t pout when striking out or making an error, or slouch over when being replaced by a sub. Again, they will take your cue so set a good example for them away from the field.
11. Encourage your child to dress for success.
Help your child to dress properly. Encourage them to tuck their shirt in, tie their shoes, wear items without holes, etc... Good images are important and students can learn this lesson at an early age if they are taught correctly. Employers want their employees to look sharp for clients, whether they work at a hotel, a restaurant, or a bank. One would not attend a job interview wearing an old pair of jeans with holes in their shirt and if they do it’s probably not a very good job to begin with. Make sure your child understands that these are expectations that will be part of their success as an adult.
12. Teach your child to have confidence through positive imagery.
Self confidence comes through experience of doing something well with a positive self image. This starts with imagery. Exposure to positive role models and championship teams in person and on videos can help your child and give them a boost. They should also watch themselves on film and be able to critique skills that need to be improved or areas of poor play or lack of hustle. Once they can develop good image of how it should be done, they will excel more. This will also help your child in staying mentally focused on the field and/or regaining their composure during adversity. This can start through “self-talk”, when players build themselves up during the game. “I want the ball on this play” “I can hit this guy”, etc….
13. Teach your child to NEVER GIVE UP, no matter what the odds.
Failure is a part of life. If a child learns to handle small failures as they grow older larger failures will be easier to handle. Failure is not the problem, but the willingness to fail and not get back up is a big problem. Teach your child not to blame others and push even when they feel their back is against the wall with no hope.
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