How to Help Your Player Stay Positive
TK: Dr. Burnett again, we are talking about mindset and confidence, let’s discuss a little bit about kids and young athletes and that mindset when it comes to self talk, specifically negative self talk. What can parents do to help prevent that and to encourage more positive thinking from their kids?
Dr. Burnett: What’s interesting is that realm that’s becoming more and more important and talked about. There are all kinds of books out now about the mental game. It used to be mainly for the pros and all that but it’s really kind of filtering down now and we’re seeing, and I’m seeing even in my practice not just in sports, feelings follow thoughts.
The way you think and talk to yourself affects your feelings about things. The goal is to have a lot more positive self talk going on than the negative. In fact, the research shows there should be anywhere from four to six to one ratios of positives to negatives in a healthy family. When parents are talking to their kids for every one time they’re criticizing them about something or confronting them there should be four or five “way to go” complements or positive stuff.
The same thing then should happen if the healthy kid is talking to himself. What you want is at least a four to one ratio of positive self talk to negative self talk because that affects everything that they do on the field. Again, if you’re focusing on skills you’ve got a better chance the kid can focus on staying positive when they make a mistake. I think this is one of the key parts of sports.
Sports are wonderful for kids and that the key message is that it’s okay to make a mistake. That’s how you learn. The more you learn from your mistakes the better. That is what separates the really good athletes from the okay athletes — how they handle mistakes. And negative self talk is all a part of that.
Here is what I mean — when a we make a mistake we have two options. One is the part of the brain that gets all judgmental, analytical, “I blew it. I can’t believe I did that,” very emotional. “You know I could do that in my sleep, I can’t believe I didn’t make that shot.” The other side of the brain simply looks at it as a spatial event and then tries to fix it and look at it mechanically. Here is the example.
I once saw a couple of gymnasts, getting ready for national championships. One of the things that separated the two was not their physical skills but their mental self talk. You know how in gymnastics the girls tried to stick that landing, how they plop down and throw their hands back up? Well if they didn’t stick their landing one girl would go through a whole series of self talk like “oh my goodness my parents are spending ,000 for this” and “what if I do this in the national tryouts, I won’t make it.” She thinks to herself, “my teammates are upset, my parents are disappointed, my coaches disappointed, ” all emotional self talk. The other girl, would say “I think I have a little too much weight on my right side I need to balance that out.” In other words, she looked at the event as a spatial event not a whole lot of emotional stuff connected with it, and figured out how to fix it. So when we’re working with kids in terms of the self talk, the goal is to get them to look at their mistakes, not get all emotional. To see what they can do to fix it.
Here’s how this relates to parents. When a kid makes a mistake, if the parent can stay calm, there is the chance the kid can reflect on what happened and think about it. If the parents are yelling, “I can’t believe you didn’t cover that guy on that path,” or the coach gets all upset, now the kid is going to get emotional. There’s no way that that child is going to step back and say, “gee coach I wish you weren’t so emotionally involved right now. See, I’m working on the other side of my brain right now.” If we give players the opportunity of staying calm when they make a mistake and they can see what they can learn from it then you can increase positive self talk rather than negative.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Dr. Darrell Burnett for this interview.
Fatal error: Call to undefined function wp_related_posts() in /nfs/c03/h06/mnt/57119/domains/phoenixcoyotescare.com/html/wp-content/themes/PhoenixCoyotesCare/single.php on line 32