How to Boost the Confidence of Your Kids and Youth Athletes


Most of us want our children to be great at sports.  Who among us would not want our son or daughter to be the next Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Mia Hamm or Annika Sorenstam?

This is a guest post by Wendy Lynne, the Director of Mental Toughness Academy.  The Academy’s online Mental Toughness Training helps kids build confidence, focus, determination and the ability to bounce back from adversity – what we call Mental Toughness.  Learn more about the Mental Toughness Academy at  If you want to guest post on my blog, check out the guidelines here.

Helping your kids cope with fear

In addition to natural ability, all of these athletes share the benefit of extraordinary sports parents.  These parents have helped their children cope with fear and reach their full potential as elite athletes.

How do you help your kids cope with fear, stress and anxiety?

It all starts with explaining to them that there are 2 kinds of fear:

1. Fear of physical harm like being maimed by a bear or crashing in an automobile; and

2. Fear of experiencing failure and difficult emotions such as disappointment, worry, sadness, anger, and embarrassment.

Handling performance anxiety

Most youth athletes’ biggest problem is they get performance anxiety, which defeats their confidence.  Performance anxiety comes when they are afraid.  They FEAR….failure, making mistakes, choking, embarrassment, disappointment, letting others down, etc.  Fear of failure is what holds most athletes back from achieving greatness.

If you can help your child get over their fear of failure and difficult emotions, then they can build back their confidence, reach their full potential and become fearless in both sports and other activities in their life.  This is one of the big lessons taught at the Mental Toughness Academy.

At the Mental Toughness Academy, kids learn that fear is nothing more than the release of chemicals in their body.  Once kids understand this, it can be a huge relief.  They understand the stomach butterflies and can cope with them.

“What are you worrying about?”

When Craig Sigl, the Mental Toughness Trainer, has a big group of kids in a room, he will ask “What is it you are worrying about?” or “What is holding you back?”  Once the kids get the concept that it is just chemicals being released in their body, every kid in the room yells out “just chemicals.”

Here are some additional confidence boosters to help your kids:

(1) Explain the difference between Objective vs Subjective. Help them learn to be objective about their performance by looking at the true facts vs the subjective facts based on how they feel. When athletes are subjective, their emotions take over, such as frustration and anger, and that’s when they can be the most self-critical.

(2) Teach them objectivity.  Ask them, “How would you view your performance if you were the most positive coach in the world? What are some of the positive things a coach might tell you that would help make you feel more confident?”

(3) Find the positives instead of mistakes. Help them to stop focusing on the plays, shots, or passes that got away from them.  Ask them, “What are the things you did well in today’s competition?”  Give them some perspective on what you saw.

(4) Help them focus on what they can improve on, not their shortcomings.  Get them to think about what they can improve on for the next game, instead of thinking about all the reasons they failed or messed up.

Have them talk to their coach and see if they can add some of their ideas into their next practice or how they could do it on their own.

Confident and fearless kids

Confidence and fearlessness for your kids will comes when they know they have strategies to improve and have your support.

What might be holding your child back in sports, or in other aspects of their life?  Would explaining “it’s just chemicals” help them get past their fears?   What are the tools you have used to help your child get past their fears?

Go here to download a free eBook “The 10 Commandments To Being A Great Sports Parent” and a free training for youth athletes “How To Master The Pressure.”

Question: How do you help your kids with their self-confidence?

photo credit: B Tal via photopin cc

Aug 3, 2013