By Ker’Shyra Myrick
Understanding that winning and losing are part of competing can be a difficult lesson for young athletes to digest.
And when a team loses more often then it’s winning, those setbacks can become burdensome.
We checked in with Abby Keenan, a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology and co-founder of Intrepid Performance Consulting, LLC., to get her thoughts on helping young athletes work through these difficult patches that can pop up at any time during a season.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What can parents and coaches do to help their athletes who struggle with losing?
KEENAN: Ask athletes about the game to see if they bring up their frustration organically. You can ask them about different parts of the game to see how they were playing at different intervals of the game. During your talk, it will be easy to see if they care more about the outcome, or the process. In these situations, you want the athlete to realize that playing to the best of their ability is more important than what may come their way during a game. ‘How am I responding to the situation the best way I can?’ and ‘How am I supporting my team?’ are questions athletes should be thinking about. At a young age, most athletes are so focused on the outcome of the game that they don’t care as much about the process. Remind athletes, at any age, that if you have a good process, you will eventually get the outcome you want. Athletes should care and invest more time in the process than the outcome, because the outcome eventually will take care of itself if you are doing the right things.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are signs to look out for if an athlete is struggling internally with a loss?
KEENAN: Signs of struggling with a loss internally can be hard to see. Although we cannot see the athletes’ thoughts, the emotions behind the thoughts can be seen. If an athlete is upset about losing, they will express some type of emotion that is out of the ordinary for them. For example, younger girls may start to cry, causing them to become embarrassed. Young athletes tend to get angry if they do not meet their own expectations. Actions may include directing their anger at some type of sporting equipment or stomping around. Others might pull away and take themselves out of the situation because they are so angry and/or upset they refuse to talk about it with anyone. At the end of the day, all we can ask is that an athlete play to the best of their ability, win or lose.
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