The Importance of Children’s Sport Psychology Some of the most important implications of sport psychology are found in the children’s arena, where participants are plentiful and highly involved. Why a Psychology of the Young Athlete So many children are involved (an estimated 45 million in the United States). Children are intensely involved in youth sports. Participation peaks at a critical developmental period in the child’s life (approx. ages 10-13). Organized sport is not automatically beneficial; qualified, competent adult leadership is needed. Why a Psychology of the Young Athlete Physical benefits of participation Psychological benefits of participation (e.g., character dev’t: sport = life) Social benefits of participation (e.g., SUPER PROGRAMS…First Tee…) Other preventive effects: teen pregnancy… J D…. Why Children Join and Discontinue Participation in Sports Stress and Burnout in Children’s Competitive Sport Are young athletes placed under too much stress? No, the vast majority of young athletes are not under excessive stress (less than 10% are). Factors Associated With Burnout in Young Athletes Very high self- and other-imposed expectations Win-at-all-costs attitude Parental pressure Long repetitive practices with little variety Inconsistent coaching practices (continued) Factors Associated With Burnout in Young Athletes Overuse injuries from excessive practice Excessive time demands High travel demands Love from others displayed on the basis of winning and losing Perfectionism Stress and Burnout in Children’s Competitive Sport Is state anxiety heightened in young athletes? High stress (state anxiety) levels are relatively rare, but affect many children in specific situations. Stress among elite junior competitors is caused by fear of failure and feelings of inadequacy. Children at risk for heightened state anxiety exhibit certain personal characteristics. Personal Characteristics of Children at Risk for Heightened State Anxiety High trait anxiety Low self-esteem Low performance expectancies relative to team Low self-performance expectations Frequent worries about failure (continued) Personal Characteristics of Children at Risk for Heightened State Anxiety Frequent worries about adult expectations and evaluation by others Less perceived fun Less satisfaction with their performance, regardless of winning or losing Perceived participation as important to parents Outcome goal orientation and low perceived ability Situational Sources of Stress Defeat versus victory: Children experience more state anxiety after losing than winning. Situational Sources of Stress Event importance: The more importance placed on a contest, the more state anxiety experienced by participants. Situational Sources of Stress Sport type: Children in individual sports experience more state anxiety than children in team sports. Meet the …… Parents !!! Parental Roles Parental enjoyment of physical activity is related to parental encouragement and a child’s perceived competence and participation. Parental support buffers the adverse stressful effects youth players experience. The goal orientations of parent and child are significantly related. Parents can play a highly positive or a highly negative role in youth sport experience. Parental Roles Keys: Educate parents about sport-parent responsibilities and the sport-parent code of conduct. Appreciate the tricky business of parental support. Sport Parent Responsibilities 1. Encourage your children to play sports, but don’t pressure them. Let your child choose to play—and quit—if she or he wants. 2. Understand what your child wants from sport and provide a supportive atmosphere for achieving those goals. 3. Set limits on your child’s participation in sport. You need to determine when your child is physically and emotionally ready to play and to ensure that that conditions for playing are safe. (continued) Sport Parent Responsibilities 4. Make sure the coach is qualified to guide your child through the sport experience. 5. Keep winning in perspective, and help your child do the same. 6. Help your child set realistic performance goals. 7. Help your child understand the valuable lessons sports can teach. 8. Help your child meet his or her responsibilities to the team and the coach. (continued) Sport Parent Responsibilities 9. Discipline your child appropriately when necessary. 10. Turn your child over to the coach at practices and games—don’t meddle or coach from the stands. 11. Supply the coach with information regarding any allergies or special health conditions your child has. Make sure your child takes any necessary medications to games and practices. Effective Coaching Practices for Young Athletes Key: Children have special coaching needs, different from the needs of adults. What the Research Says About Coaching Children Smith, Smoll, and Curtis’s (1979) classic research notes that a coach’s instruction, reinforcement, and mistake-contingent instruction and encouragement correlate with a player’s self-esteem, motivation, and positive attitudes. What the Research Says About Coaching Children Learning a positive approach to coaching results in lower player- dropout rates (5% compared with 26% for untrained coaches). Effective Coaching Practices for Young Athletes 1. Catch kids doing things right and give them plenty of praise. 2. Give praise sincerely. 3. Develop realistic expectations. 4. Reward effort as much as outcome. 5. Focus on teaching and practicing skills (maximize participation and activity). (continued) Effective Coaching Practices for Young Athletes 6. Modify skills and activities to be developmentally appropriate. 7. Modify rules to maximize action and participation. 8. Reward correct technique, not just outcome. 9. Use a positive “sandwich” approach when you correct errors. (continued) Effective Coaching Practices for Young Athletes 10. Create an environment that reduces fear of trying new skills. 11. Be enthusiastic. Facilitating Motivation in Young Athletes Implications for Practice Enhanced perceived competence— teach young athletes to view success as exceeding their own goals, not merely as winning. Keep participation and withdrawal statistics. (continued) Facilitating Motivation in Young Athletes Implications for Practice When children discontinue, rigorously analyze why they are withdrawing from sport. – Interest in another sport? – Withdrawal permanent or temporary? – Did the child have a say in the decision? – Effects on long-term welfare? Basic Guidelines for Coaches and Parents • Winning isn’t everything or the only thing. • Failure is not the same as losing. • Success does not equal winning - success is found in striving for victory and excellence. Success = giving 100% effort Winners and Losers • The loser is controlled by obstacles; the winner is excited by challenges. • The loser is fearful of failure; the winner is confident of victory. • The loser magnifies misfortunes; the winner creates opportunities. • The loser worships conformity; the winner expresses originality. Winners and Losers • The loser is a pessimistic part of the problem; the winner is a dynamic part of the answer. • The loser resists change; the winner dares to be different. • The loser has a convenient excuse; the winner has a compelling purpose. • The loser believes the worst; the winner expects the best.
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