Apr 30

Refocusing: How to Have the Best Sport Experience as a Parent/Coach or Athlete

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The following article is reproduced with slight modifications and with permission granted by the author.

How does a Coach Influence Parents and Players to be Committed To a Process Requiring Investment in Effort, Time, and Money before Results are Seen?

Good question! … In our fast-paced lives, kids and parents often expect results right away and are impatient to wait for these to occur.

Dr. Patrick Cohn suggests that coaches begin with good communication.

  • Start the season with a meeting with parents and sports kids.
  • Coaches should explain their goals and objectives for the season.
  • They should also inquire about parents’ goals for their kids.
  • Coaches should discuss the mental game challenges associated with high expectations and parents demanding their kids be stars because high expectations often backfire.

When kids feel pressured to meet expectations such as, “I’m going to be the highest scorer on the team this season”, or “I’m not going to commit any turnovers”, or “I want my team to go to the state championships”, they feel pressure to perform. When they pressure themselves and don’t meet their own high expectations, they get frustrated, their confidence sinks, and they don’t perform well.

Here’s a better focus: ‘having fun, mastering skills, and feeling like kids are part of a tight-knit, supportive team.’ Coaches can establish this focus by creating a warm, fun, and inclusive culture. That means focusing on skill development and mastery rather than results such as the score or winning. Kids should be rewarded for meeting small, process-oriented goals. Those might include being a good team player, or communicating well with teammates, or improving their defensive game. When kids are having fun and learning with a coach who creates this kind of sport culture, they will be happy, and most likely, the parents will be too. They’ll focus less on seeing results and more on the all-important process.


From Dr. Patrick Cohn and Lisa Cohn (Authors of The Confident Sports Kid Series)

Dear Parents and Coaches,

The MOST important time for kids to be focused and confident is just before competition. However, it is prior to competition when kids feel anxious, distracted, worried, and tense about potential outcomes. Feeling this way can undermine athletes’ confidence and performance. In addition, as sports parents and coaches, parental behaviour can make or ‘break’ athletes’ mindsets before competition or performance. You, as a parent, can make them feel more anxious, worried, tense or distracted – even though you don’t mean to do this. But you can learn to say and do the things that boost their confidence and composure. Young athletes too can learn to take steps that make them feel more confident, energized, and focused just before competition.

Kids Struggle To Get Mentally Ready for Competition

Parents ask us:

  • “How do I support my athlete without putting more pressure on him?”
  • “I am more nervous than my son before games. How do I as a parent stay calm and not show I am nervous before games?”
  • “My challenge is not to talk too much about the upcoming games or what they need to do. I want to psych him/her up and encourage him/her, but don’t want him/her to feel that he/she has to perform perfectly.”
  • “How do I help my kid understand that mental prep is as important or even more important than physical prep?”
  • “How do I keep my daughter loose in games like she is at practice? Her practices far out-measure her game time skills.”
  • “How can I pump up my athlete and be positive without being overbearing or getting in his/her space?
  • How can I help my child to play with intensity?”

Young athletes, their parents, and coaches tell us that sports kids often struggle with these pregame mental challenges:

  • They feel pressure to excel from expectations they feel from others
  • They focus too much on the outcome instead of the process
  • They fail to take charge of their confidence before they compete
  • They don’t trust in their skills when they go from practice to competition
  • They hang onto mistakes and dwell on them in competition
  • They worry too much about what others think about their performance
  • They tighten up and play safe when they feel pressure to succeed
  • They interpret pregame jitters as harmful to their performance

The Good News

Young Athletes Can Learn the Secrets to Mental Preparation

  • Sports kids can now learn how to manage the expectations they feel, cope with pregame pressure, and take charge of their confidence before a game or competition – in just 10 minutes a day!
  • They can learn how to focus on things that help them, rather than hurt them.
  • They can even learn how to use pressure and pregame butterflies to improve their focus and energy.
  • In addition, kids can learn how to trust in their training and “win ugly.” That means they let go of trying to perform perfectly and do whatever it takes to get the job done. When they do this, they can play intuitively, “get in the zone,” perform better and have more fun.

Purchase 10-Minute Pregame Prep by Dr. Patrick Cohn and Lisa Cohn (authors of The Confident Sports Kid series) to learn even more about the proven lessons for pregame mental preparation.




“Youth Sports Tips” by Dr. Patrick Cohn – Master Mental Game Coach



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