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TEACHING RESILIENCE 

A LIFE LESSON FOR A YOUNG ATHLETE

"I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan

Does your young athlete say things like, “I can never hit a good one,” or, “I’m always a terrible player,” or “Things never work out for me” after a tough game or competition?

In her article Overcoming Performance Errors with Resilience, Dr. Gloria B. Solomon, a specialist in sport psychology and a renowned sport sociologist, explores the subject. In collaboration with her colleague, A. Becker, Dr. Solomon developed a four-step process to help athletes deal with and learn from performance errors and to increase individual athletic resiliency. The simple mnemonic device, ARSE, (yes, really) follows:

 

  • A = Acknowledge. The athlete acknowledges and accepts responsibility for his or her error and the frustration it has caused. Ownership of the error is essential in this phase of resiliency, as is acknowledging the frustration for the individual athlete, as well as for the team. ?

  • R = Review. The athlete reviews the play and determines how and why the performance error occurred.

  • S = Strategize. The athlete makes a plan to take corrective action for future plays. At this point, team members or coaches may also assist in corrective action, but again, the ownership for the performance error, as well as for the future strategy, belongs to the individual athlete.

  • E = Execute. The athlete continues to perform in the event and prepares for the next play.

In her book, “Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking”, a

high-profile child psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., says 

negative statements, such as those listed above, are a major

sign of a big problem, a major red flag.

 

When kids talk like this, it’s time for coaches and parents to step

in and give them some perspective, she says. That will help them

be more resilient in the face of loss or failure.

 

But you have to be very careful about how you communicate with them, she says.

 

You need to acknowledge their feelings—but at the same time help them separate the feelings from the facts. This is the tricky part, she says.

 

“Don’t challenge head-on what they are saying. Help them recognize that these are temporary feelings,” Chansky suggests.

You might say, ‘I know that’s how you’re feeling right now. But let’s look at the facts. Is it really true that you’re never able to do that?' Go over the factual side of the story with them. Point out what they did well.

 

“When kids have a bad game or performance, they need to understand that what just happened is only one moment in their history,” Chansky says. “What makes kids not resilient is feeling like whatever just happened reframes their worth or value.”

 

If they lose or make mistakes, they may think they lack value or worth.

 

In addition to helping kids separate their temporary feelings from facts, parents need to show some empathy for their young athletes. Showing empathy keeps the lines of communication open.

You may think that empathizing means agreeing with everything the child has to say. Not exactly, Chansky says. It’s more about acknowledging that’s how the child feels right now.

“If a child is devastated, to empathize, you don’t have to

say, ‘Yes, you’re the worst player ever,’” she explains. “But

you can agree that that’s how the child is feeling right now.

You can say, ‘I know this is so disappointing to you.”

You can help kids narrow the loss to the moment:

This is one game and there will be others.  You can also look at what they’re most upset about.

 

“Once you do that, you have options for how kids might improve and potentially see what went right in the game as well,” she says.

 

After a game, it’s never a good idea to jump in the car and

start micro-analyzing the game, Chansky says.

 

“Kids have told me they wish they could just drive home and

not have to do the instant replay, the play by play of what just

happened.”

 

Here’s another tip for increasing kids’ resiliency:

 

When they say negative things about their performance, help them take a bigger-picture view. Ask them what would happen if their sports heroes applied the same harsh rules to themselves…

“Would Michael Jordan think the same thing about himself if he missed a shot?” Remind your young athletes that in sports, people, even the stars, make mistakes and lose. Tell them, “Don’t equate your value as a player or a person with what happens in just one game.”

 

Intent vs Result

 

What we need to do better is focus on the INTENT or EFFORT and not the result, as we teach.  A coach I know told me this story.

 

"At a recent game, while working with a talented and self-critical

player on my 10U team, I had a one on one with her after a great

at-bat where she hit a hard line drive to the third baseman.  She

looked disgusted with herself, a habit that is shown by poor body

posture, gestures, and even verbally which coaches continue to

work to eliminate. So many players who put too much pressure on

themselves, where one’s actions are not seen in total, do not realize

the power they are giving opponents by these external displays of

frustration. So that was part of the teachable moment, but at its

core was that I wanted to reward her for the intent that I saw when she approached the plate and the way she battled throughout the at-bat. I also got to remind her of the positive vs. negative options - should she be encouraged by how hard she hit the ball or disappointed because the third baseman made the catch. We also talked about what she could control."

 

First, this coach handled the situation PERFECTLY, and the points he brought up with his player were spot-on. The young woman had a hard time seeing what success really is and was relying on the result. And that's often the problem with young athletes who have a hard time dealing with getting out in baseball or softball, getting tackled in football, etc.