Mental ability and strength determine the difference between good and great athletes. The way they prepare, cope with pressure or manage adversity, it all counts. The same goes for children who play sports.
Does your child have trouble staying motivated? Does he find it difficult to deal with pressure? Is he unable to stay focused? If the answer is a resounding yes, then your child may be lacking in mental strength. All these questions are related to the mental condition of a child while playing sports, which complements the physical aspect in a big way.
According to an article published in HealthyChildren.org, your child may be ready for stiff competition from a physical viewpoint but not from a mental or emotional standpoint. For instance, he may be in peak physical condition and may have mastered speed and endurance but if he becomes insecure or unsure of his abilities suddenly, he reveals a lack of mental skill. So, you see, mental skills are important for your child to succeed in sports.
So, what are the mental skills that matter for your child to excel in sports?
• A positive attitude:
Teach your child to maintain a positive attitude in the face of challenges. She should view her sport as an opportunity to test her limits and to learn from success and failure. She should realise that no one is perfect and it is the never-say-die attitude that is important.
• A high level of self-motivation
Successful sportsmen are those who are constantly motivated and remain aware of the benefits of playing sports, they are persistent in the face of difficulty and are highly committed to their goals. Even though, sometimes, they may realise that many benefits may come from only participation, they remain motivated.
• Setting realistic goals
Teach your child to set short- and long-term goals for himself – those that are realistic and time-oriented at the same time. When your child is committed to his goals and goes through the paces and demands of training with nothing but his goal in mind, he is bound to succeed.
• People skills
Having proper people skills is an important trait to develop in your child if she has taken up a sporting activity. Children should be taught that while playing, they are part of a larger system that includes their teammates, coaches and others. The ability to communicate well, deal with conflict and difficult opponents, and empathising with his team is also an essential skill.
• Mental imagery
Mental imagery is one of the top mental skills needed for sports. You can teach mental imagery to your child by telling her to get ready for competition by imagining herself as performing well. Use imagery during competition to prepare for action and to recover in time from setbacks.
• Ability to deal with anxiety
Anxiety is a normal part of every sport. Children who are into sports should accept anxiety and realise that some degree of anxiety might prove useful as well. At the same time, teach your child simple ways to calm down and encourage fun moments to reduce anxiety.
• Concentration is key
Concentration is vital to succeeding in any sport. Teach your child to pay attention to detail, to be focused, to resist distraction and to learn to play in the present.