In my role as a leadership coach and trainer across sport, business and education, I am often asked my opinion regarding prioritising one attribute that leads to success. I never hesitate-it’s resilience, and I needed this in abundance when I was a Premier League and International Football Referee, more recently as a Headteacher, and now as the parent of a keen golfing son!
The good news is that resilience behaviours can be learned-it’s a process of continual development, and in my opinion, is one of the most important things that parents can develop alongside their sport-mad child.
WHAT YOU CAN DO?
A child’s belief in his/her own abilities is derived from confidence and competence. To develop this: focus on their strengths, empowering them to make their own decisions; praise honestly about specific achievements resulting from effort applied; praise the process and the attitude, not the result; focus on their enjoyment of their sport.
ENCOURAGE AN ‘EXPECTATION FREE’ CULTURE
Expectations that you place on your child can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety and an increased pressure on them to perform. They need to be able to play their own game as if you/their coach was not there, and just focus on things that are within their control: their preparation for a competition; practice; diet; how they fully commit to a shot in golf; court awareness in Netball; recognising opposition tactics/strengths/weaknesses in Football. Prioritise what is already working for them and acknowledge even the smallest changes in the right direction.
LISTEN AND COMMUNICATE NON-JUDGEMENTALLY
Developing non-judgemental listening skills as a parent will help you build your own confidence when dealing with your child’s ‘sporting crises’ and will prevent you ‘pouring fuel on the fire’. Get to know when and where your child might like to talk through the competition that hasn’t gone well (Is it in the car on the way home when you don’t have to face each other? Is it back home after they have ‘cooled down’ and can process thoughts?); your attitude needs to be one of acceptance, genuineness and empathy which helps create a safe, comfortable environment in which your child can talk openly without fear of being judged. You are not listening to your child when you say you understand and have an answer to their issue, before they finish telling you what it is!
ASK ‘GREAT GROWTH’ QUESTIONS
One of the first questions parents often ask their children after a competition is, “Did you win?” Face facts-most of the time they won’t (and it’s often outside of their control)-so how does it make them feel when you ask this question? That you only value winning? Consider questions that will help build confidence and ultimately resilience: “What did you learn today?”; “What challenges did you face?”; “How can the challenges you faced help you improve your practice?” “What did you enjoy most about today?” These types of questions help children understand that failure and challenges are part of the process of growing and developing as a player.
As a parent, watching and supporting your child play and compete in sport is one of the joys of life. Let them make mistakes, don’t make excuses for them, and be there for them no matter what and you will be well on the way to developing their resilient behaviours that will last a lifetime!
Matt is Director of Matt Messias Impact Leadership Ltd, and inspires and develops people across sport, education, and business.