Crowd’s cheering, players yelling, coaches screaming – so many external pressures and distractions can hinder a player’s performance, but what about the internal pressure they place on themselves?
Missing a shot or causing a turn over can cause a player to use negative self-talk, such as “that was a terrible shot”, or “I suck”. Kids constantly doubt their abilities, which is why we, as coaches or parents, need to promote positive self talk and mental toughness in your players from a young age.
National Geographic’s Brain Games demonstrates the “Power of Positivity” while shooting a basketball after two different situations. Watch the video below to see what they found!
Following the Law of Attraction, if you think bad things, then bad things will happen, so why be so hard on yourself? Think positively, and good things will come! This video is very powerful in demonstrating the great effects positive feedback can have on a player’s performance.
One way to promote positive self talk is through applauding athletes when they make a mistake, which aligns with the core components of physical literacy. Instead of telling them what they did wrong, speak to what they did right and how to improve. This is especially important for young players, as they need to understand that making a mistake is a part of learning and perfecting skills.
Kids participate in sports to have fun, therefore it is important to provide them with positive and constructive feedback when necessary. As a coach, it is our responsibility to develop our athletes, so it is important to be wary of what we say, and how we say it. When we acknowledge their mistake with a positive light, they will learn to do the same.
Parents can also promote positive thinking to their children simply through the way they talk to them. If after a game the first thing you ask your child is “did you win or lose” on the car ride home, then change is required. Probing questions can be “did you have fun”, or did you learn anything new”. This alters their perspective on the importance of performance outcomes, and allows them to consider what they just learned.
Ultimately, it comes down to the player and the pressure they place on themselves. When parents and coaches stray away from emphasizing winning and focus on development and progressions of skills, the player will (hopefully) learn to put less pressure on themselves and instead enjoy the wonderful game of basketball.
Elizabeth Corey is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Sport Management at the University of Ottawa. She is the Domestic Development Intern at Canada Basketball, and the Director of Events for the University of Ottawa Sports Business Club.