There are a lot of moms that have sons that want to explore the game of football. This can be an avenue to help them achieve their wildest dreams whether it’s playing in the NFL, getting a scholarship or improving self-esteem. If you want your son to come out of his youth sports experience a winner feeling good about himself and having a healthy attitude towards sports, then he is going to need your help! I have some groundbreaking news for you here: You, as the parent, are the MOST critical aspect of his development. If you do your job correctly and play your position well, then your son will learn the sport faster, perform better, really have fun and have his self-esteem enhanced as a result (We will teach you ways to do this in our Football 101 Series networking workshops).
His early football experience will serve as a positive model for him to follow as he approaches other challenges and obstacles throughout life. If you “drop the ball”, run the wrong way with it or call the wrong play, your child will stop learning, experience performance difficulties and blocks, and begin to really hate the sport. This can transcend into other endeavors he may consider pursuing. As a result, he will come out of this experience burdened with feelings of failure, inadequacy and low self-esteem. Your son and his football coach need you on HIS team. They can’t win without you! The following is a quick list of useful tips for you to use to make you more skilled and looked up to by your young competitor. Remember, no one wins unless everyone wins. He needs you on the team!
1. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO COMPETE AGAINST HIMSELF
The ultimate goal of his football experience is to challenge himself and continually improve. It’s a lesson that will remain with him until the end of days. Unfortunately, judging improvement by winning and losing is both an unfair and an inaccurate measure. Winning in football (just like in life) is about doing the best you can do, separate from the outcome or the play of your opponent. He should be encouraged to compete against his own potential. That is, he should focus on beating himself (where he was yesterday) and competing against himself. When your son has this focus and plays to better himself instead of beating someone else, he will be more relaxed, have more fun and therefore perform better. This works at even the highest levels of football.
2. DO NOT DEFINE SUCCESS AND FAILURE IN TERMS OF WINNING AND LOSING
One of the main purposes of the youth sports experience is skill acquisition and mastery. When your son performs to his potential and loses, it is a shame to focus on the outcome and become critical. If he plays his very best and loses, you and his football coach need to help him feel like a winner! Similarly, when he or his team performs far below their potential but wins, this is not cause to feel like a winner. This may be the hardest to grasp for parents unfamiliar with sports. Help him make this important separation between success and failure and winning and losing. Remember, if you define success and failure in terms of winning and losing, you’re playing a losing game with your son!
3. HELP MAKE THE SPORT FUN FOR YOUR CHILD
It’s a time proven principle of peak performance that the more fun an athlete is having, the more they will learn and the better they will perform. Fun must be present for peak performance to happen at every level of sports from youth football to the NFL. When your son stops having fun and begins to dread practice or competition, it’s time for you as a parent to become concerned! When the sport or game becomes too serious, athletes have a tendency to burn out and become susceptible to repetitive performance problems. An easy rule of thumb is this: If your child is not enjoying what they are doing, nor loving the heck out of it, investigate! What is going on that’s preventing them from having fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it you?! Whatever it is, it needs to be eliminated. Keep in mind that being in a highly competitive program does not mean that there is no room for fun. If your son continues to play long after the fun, he will soon become a drop out statistic.
4. YOUR SON IS NOT HIS PERFORMANCE – LOVE HIM UNCONDITIONALLY
Do not equate your son’s self-worth and lovability with his performance. The most tragic and damaging mistake I see parents (and some football coaches) continually make is punishing their son for a bad performance by withdrawing emotionally from him. I’ve seen instances where someone’s son misses a block, drops a ball and or throws an interception and you or his football coach responds with disgust, anger and withdrawal of love and approval. I would CAUTION this: Only use this strategy if you want to damage your child emotionally and ruin your relationship with him.
In the 1988 Olympics, when Greg Louganis needed and got a perfect 10 on his last dive to overtake the Chinese diver for the gold medal, his last thought before he went was, “If I don’t make it, my mother will still love me”. That’s what it’s all about.
5. STRESS PROCESS, NOT OUTCOME
When athletes choke under pressure and perform far below their potential, a very common cause of this is a focus on the outcome of the performance (i.e., win/lose, instead of the process). In any peak performance, the athlete is totally oblivious to the outcome and instead is completely absorbed in the here and now of the actual performance. An outcome focus will almost always distract and tighten up the athlete insuring a bad performance. Furthermore, focusing on the outcome, which is completely out of the athlete’s control will raise his anxiety to a performance inhibiting level. So if you truly want your son to win, help him get his focus away from how important the game is and have him focus on the task at hand. Supportive moms de-emphasize winning and instead stress learning the skills, processes and playing the game with effort.
Join us at one of our workshops to learn more about coaching your son to win, not just in football, but life.