How to Help Young Athletes Learn From Mistakes

Some analysis of mistakes is necessary to improve-especially from a coach's perspective. Athletes can improve on their weaknesses and grow from defeat.

Being overly critical of your child's performance is not the best reaction to failure or defeat. We suggest you help your son or daughter to assess their performance objectively by focusing on what they did well and what they can do to improve.

Many fine athletes lose confidence or motivation and even quit sports because they are too critical or judgmental of their performance.

More: How Not to Kill Your Kid's Love of Sports

So how can you help your child learn from mistakes? First, observe the cool down period immediately after the game or match, and wait to discuss the performance with your son or daughter. When emotions are elevated, it's easier for both parents and kids to be self-critical. We suggest a cool down period of at least 30 minutes to allow kids time to get past the emotions of the competition.

We suggest that parents focus on what their athletes did well during their performance. Maybe they didn't win, but I'm sure you can think of something positive that you can comment on even after a loss. Help your athletes focus on the things they did well such as playing aggressively, working hard until the end of the game, making good passes, hitting a nice shot, or executing a skill.

After you help your athletes focus on a few positive things, make a list of what you think they can improve based on some of the mistakes and mental errors you observed. We suggest you provide this list to a coach so he or she can help your child work on these areas.

Remember that all athletes (even professionals) do not perform perfectly, and always strive to improve. Try not to let your son or daughter fall into the trap of labeling their performance as "good" or "bad." Focus on what went well. This way your athletes can feel more confident, learn from their mistakes, and in turn become better athletes.

More: Sports Parenting: It's Only Natural

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About the Author

Dr. Patrick Cohn/Lisa Cohn

Award-winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and youth sports psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, "Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes."

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