Friday, December 5, 2014

17 Ways To Help Your Child Succeed At Sports

I enjoy membership in quite few groups or sites, and you might be surprised to know that they're not all hockey related.  Naw, I do have a few other interests, including Internet work, and writing.

And it's the latter interest that brings me to regularly scan the site -- for a lot of reasons.  (Ya, they cover numerous topics, so it's likely they have something each of my faithful readers would find interesting.)  

Now, readers might recall from some of my past posts that I'm not enthralled with those who try to tear down North American youth sports.  Yes, I said "North American", because they're often knocking my favorite sport, hockey, which is popular in both the US and Canada.

As for the current topic, "17 Ways To Help Your Child Succeed At Sports", it's written by Dr Jay Granat.  And, in that article, Dr Granat describes some simple strategies aimed at helping parents, coaches and kids better enjoy their sports.  It's even suggested that youngsters can perform better using the following advice.  Oh, and he also provides some sensible answers to offset what the naysayers might grump about when it comes to youth sports...  

"According to Jay P Granat, Ph.D., Psychotherapist, author of many books and programs on sports psychology and founder of Stay In The Zone, there are a number of simple steps parents can take to help their kids enjoy sports and do well at sports."

I've provided links here, in the event readers wish to read Dr Granat's entire article.  However, let me recap his suggestions as best I can...

  • Parents should do what you can to make sure that your child is having a positive experience with his or her coaches and teammates. (He says parents need to help their children resolve interpersonal issues with coaches and teammates, and in some instances, he'll intercede on their child's behalf.)
  • Parents should determine if your child seems better suited for team sports or for individual sports.  (While the doctor gave his own example of a former team sport athlete doing better once a switch was made to an individual sport, I have my own story...  It involves a former long time hockey student of mine who had fairly good success chasing a puck, but then bettered that by winning an Olympic Silver Medal once he switched to speed skating.)
  • Be aware of burn out. (Yup, if your youngster seems to be losing enthusiasm, it's possible a little break might be in order.)
  • Help your child (and your family) find a balance in sports participation, and make sure that no one has too much on his or her plate.
  • Consider whether your child is an elite athlete or not.  (I'll agree with the doctor, in that even young athletes who appear to be elite also tend to show other characteristics beyond most other kids.  They just might love their game -- a lot, and they may be capable of taking on a little more than others.)
  • If your child is an elite athlete, you might discover that the age of specialization has now crept into youth sports. (Dr Granat doesn't get into this much more, while I'll suggest that some care has to be taken when it comes to rather young kids and specialization.  For my money, I'd go along with plenty of work for the elite athlete, but that would include more done towards developing a total athlete, rather than sticking strictly with his or her sport.)
  • If your child wants to achieve a high level of success at sports, it is essential that the coach, the youngster and parents have a good working relationship. (Dr Granat says that he's often called upon to intervene in some circumstances, attempting to get everyone working as a team.)
  • He says that many young and talented athletes are clueless about the mental aspects of their sport.  (About two decades ago I labeled the mental side as "the last frontier in sport". Since then, I've been on a mission to help my followers become more complete athletes, as evidenced in these "NewEdge Mental Training" podcasts.)
  • Expect to have different coaches and trainers during the course of a kid's athletic career.  (This can come about for good and not-so-good reasons.)
  • The doctor goes on to mention working with very talented young golfers who fell apart on the course, and as many baseball players with great swings who couldn't hit in game conditions.  (So again, the mental side of a sport becomes at least as important as the physical, once players move up the competition ladder.)
  • In order to excel at sports, youngsters also need to learn to understand the strategies, as well as the internal mental aspects of their sport. ( I tend to agree with Dr Granat when he says, "It is wise to expose your child to mental toughness training early in their sporting careers."  Huh, to my way of looking at things, this is more than just a sport challenge, and as much to do with schooling and everyday life.  In fact, the above noted podcasts point to numerous qualities that will help youngsters in all three areas of their lives.  That's also why I've devoted a pretty large area of my site to "Thinking the Game".)
  • Parents are urged to do whatever they can to teach their child to be relaxed, confident, focused and optimistic, on and off the court.  Show them how to manage the successes and the setbacks.  (I might add here that, readers who are coaches might also appreciate their role in accomplishing these things.)
  • He goes on to suggest that parents introduce their child to mental toughness training, visualization and self-hypnosis at an early age.  (Would you believe my dad taught me the latter two techniques back when I was young teen?  And, I excelled in most sports I played.  Moreover, while the average parent and youth coach isn't aware of what the pros and National Team players are doing, I can assure readers that every top athlete uses these techniques.)
  • If your child is under age 12, have him or her listen to Bed Time Stories For Young Athletes.   (The author suggests that this program is designed to help young athletes perform to their fullest potential.)
A lot like my podcast pitch, Dr Granat offers a number of additional programs to help athletes in need.  Just use the earlier provided link to explore those.

In closing, though...  While I know that Jay Granat is a psychotherapist, and rightfully so approaches athletic challenges from that perspective, I want to use these last few lines to emphasize the importance of the mental side of sport.  The examples he used -- about golfers and baseball hitters -- are real; trust me on that.  In fact, it's been my observation that most athletes spend tons of time on getting faster, stronger, more agile and better conditioned, while at the same time usually ignoring a major factor in achieving a higher level of play.