Ask The Experts
Confidence and Competence
By Ker’Shyra Myrick
Young athletes feeling pressure in basketball to take – and make – shots can be a daunting sensation.
Many times, athletes end up not even attempting the shot at all, because they do not want to miss and let their team down.
“Young athletes need to know they are going to miss more shots than they are going to make,” says Dr. Sheriece Sadberry, a sports psychologist and Certified Mental Performance Consultant.
Many young players will pass up shots during games for fear of missing them, which requires coaches to help build their confidence so they aren’t reluctant to attempt them during games.
“What I tell a coach is you have to understand your athlete, because every individual is going to respond differently to whatever intervention you do,” Sadberry says. “I would ask the child, ‘What is it about taking the shot that you are uncomfortable with?’ Most of the time, kids may think they are doing things that might be hurting the team. If you have an athlete who is in this situation, you can tell them that they are helping the team by taking the shots, and giving the team more opportunities, and that the team is relying on you. Most of the time, young athletes do not want to make mistakes that will let their team down.”
Often, issues can be traced back to the confidence factor.
“If it is a confidence issue, I always say that having confidence is about being competent,” Sadberry says. “If I feel more competent in what I’m doing, I will feel more confident in performing that task. Coaches can take some time to do one-on-one development with their athletes, like taking on their shot and being able to execute shooting at all spots on the court; then add in some adversity in practice like more crowd noise or a one-on-one game scenario and build up to scrimmages. By building competency in an athlete’s skill it will make them feel more confident in doing it.”
Check out what else Sadberry shared in our conversation with her:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How common is this issue?
SADBERRY: This issue is not uncommon. Most of the time, athletes do not have the competency to shoot. At 12 years old, kids are transitioning from the little kid game to the big kid game and learning how to play basketball, so building their competency in their skills is important. Repetition is key. If an athlete needs to feel more confident with the ball, you can have them walk around with the ball all day, feeling the grip of the ball. At 12, kids are in an awkward stage and insecurities start to come out, which plays a part in their sport. Young athletes may also start feeling more pressure from their parents, and there is some influence that could affect their ability. Coaches should sit down and talk with them to see what the issue is because everyone’s experience will be different. Coaches can help young athletes understand that basketball is a game of failure, and they do not understand that the percentage that you get in is less than the percentage that you miss. Coaches should help them understand what playing the sport means. It’s not about making the shot; it’s about having the confidence to take it. This generation does not know that it is normal to fail. They have not been allowed to fail.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How are young athletes handling failure?
SADBERRY: The majority of this generation is saying they do not want the ball and they do not want to shoot. Now it’s about teaching them to see everything as a learning opportunity, and everything is a process. Young athletes need to realize the fact that they are 12 years old and won’t play like Candace Parker. There is no expectation for you to play this well. That’s why it is important to talk to the athlete, because sometimes they are coming from families where parents are putting pressure on them to be that good. At the age of 12 you are where you need to be and you are going to miss shots. A lot of this is about the process and no one is telling them that.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What can parents say to kids to help them overcome this fear?
SADBERRY: All a parent needs to say when their child walks off the court is “good game. You did this really well and we can keep working on the other stuff.” That’s it. Instead of focusing on what went wrong during the game, parents should focus on all the things their young athlete did right and things that they can improve on.
Dr. Sheriece Sadberry
A leading soccer expert on what you need to do to make the most of your practice sessions
Dr. Becky Clark on helping a young athlete become integrated and comfortable on a new team
Basketball players are susceptible to sprains, strains and other assorted injuries to their feet and ankles. Use these tips from a leading expert to help keep kids safe and on the court
A leading youth soccer expert on helping players embrace the defensive aspects of the game