“I just can’t do it mom/dad!”
“Everyone thinks I am rubbish”
Most football parents at some point faced confidence issues with their child of some sort. Children today (also adults) are being fed this image that everything has to look ‘perfect’ right from the beginning when in reality things don’t often turn out that way.
Let’s take a situation I once faced with my son not too long ago.
My son at this time of writing is almost 12 but when he was between the ages of 8 & 9 he had some confidence issues with his football development.
Whenever he struggled to do something instead of brushing himself off and trying again until he mastered it he would get angry or even breakdown & cry.
It was becoming a major issue because I knew unless he got over this he wouldn’t progress to the level that he so desperately wants to.
So I gathered my thoughts and came up with a few methods to try and help improve my son’s mentality when it came to his development and experiencing failure.
With Every Failure, There Is A Great Lesson To Be Learned!
First off, I decided to tackle his thought process when it came to experiencing failure. I figured if I can get him to view failure differently then that should make everything else a lot easier.
So I begin having chats with him whenever he would have his ‘moments’ during our 1 to 1 football training sessions. here is an example of one conversation;
“WHY CAN’T I DO THIS!” my son screamed!
My son was trying to master a skill he had seen Ronaldinho do on YouTube but was getting frustrated because after numerous attempts it was working out.
“Why don’t we have a break and we can have a chat,” I said to him.
I sat him down on the grass and began to talk to him about how he felt about the current situation.
“So why are you getting so upset about this,” I said to him.
“It’s because I can’t do it! it’s taking too long! why isn’t it just working!” he said.
I paused for a moment then responded with this.
“When you watch players like Ronaldinho, Messi, etc do the things that they do how do think they got to that level?” I said.
My son responded with “By practicing and playing football with their friends” he said to me while the silent tears roll down his eyes.
“Right, and do you think when they were first practicing these new techniques or skills that they could do it straight away every time?”.
My son by this time looked towards the floor and seemed deep in thought.
“No” he simply replied.
So I then responded by saying “So whenever you see these pros make a mistake or lose the ball on the field do they ever cry and walk off the field or simply stop playing or do they pick themselves up and try again until they have success?”
By now his tears had stopped and he was no longer looking down but directly at me. “They would keep trying until they were able to do it” he responded.
After our break we returned to training and his attitude towards failure was vastly improved.
A major stumbling block for a lot of kids is that they focus a lot on having ‘instant’ success especially now with the unlimited access to videos that they see on social media where they can access heavily edited videos of football training that feature players never making mistakes.
As parents and coaches, we must help them ‘see’ that everything is a process and sometimes we must fail a thousand times before we learn a very important lesson!
The key for us football parent trainers & coaches is to hone in on what our children are into or look up to and use that as examples for breaking down the barriers that our children so often put up.
Now although this was successful for this particular session what you tend to find is that your child will have relapses and slip back into their old ways.
Habits are sometimes a difficult thing to break so to counter that I created a process that would encourage him to focus on achieving his goals and nothing else.
Sometimes All They Need Is A Thumbs up!
Does your child always ‘look for you’ whenever they pull off something cool in a game like a great goal or trick?
As much as we sometimes think that our kids don’t want our attention and prefer to impress their friends instead this is simply not true.
Kids love praise, so try to think of unique ways that you can offer them your recognition during practice with you or in team training and game day!
Let me share an example of what I introduced with my son and you can mirror something similar that would maybe work for your child.
I created a simple reward system called ‘baller points’.
Each time he did something really well I would give him ‘baller point’ to show I recognize the good stuff that he is doing.
I even went one further and gave each point a level, so if he achieved 1 point it was league 1, 2 points for the championship, 3 points for the premier league, 4 points for the champions league, and 5 points for the international level.
I created a chart so that he could mark down what he managed to achieve each session so he could visually see his progress.
What I found was it made training more interesting to him as he was competing against himself and my son loves a bit of competition.
As I have stated before, if this is something you want to try please put your own spin on it and cater it to your child. Think about what engages them and try to implement it into this reward strategy.
Remember not every child will need something like this as every child is different and some are very resilient beings.
But even they appreciate a simple ‘thumbs up’ every so often.
Changing Their Focus! Becoming More Resilient!
In a post on social media recently, I discussed the impact of setting goals with your child, making sure that they were heavily involved in the process.
In it, I mentioned how my son sets himself 2 goals (make sure they are achievable) before training and matches.
Recently I adjusted it and asked him to also have a weekly and monthly goal.
The reason behind this was because I wanted him to start visualizing where he wanted to be then start building the steps to achieve the overall goal.
My thought process was doing things this way will help him become more independent when it comes to his development, which is my own personal goal as a football parent.
As you can see, there are a number of methods that we can implement to help instill more resilience in our children when they face difficult situations in their football development.
It is not my job to tell you which one you should go with as every child is different and nobody knows them better than you so apply what you feel would work for them and go from there.
Many underestimate how much the mental side of the game can hinder a child’s development.
Without the confidence to try new things or look at failure differently, It is unlikely that there will be much progress in their ability.
Why not share with us inside our Facebook group what you are doing right now to help your child to be more resilient in youth football!