The Greater Mission – A Healthy Mindset
I recently asked someone why she had her kids in sports. As expected the answer included, for self-confidence and life skills, physical fitness, to make or spend time with friends and the enjoyment of watching them succeed. All great reasons! Berger & McInman (1993) site these and other reasons why sport increases the quality of life for kids. I believe that when we start them out, we intend for our children to stay involved with sports for a lifetime for these very reasons.
So why are we seeing so much violence, verbal abuse and political power struggles leading to extremes such parents being arrested in bleachers and lawsuits being filed? How can this lead to a healthy mindset for kids? What is the disconnect?
Although we are registering our kids in sports for great purposes and for a life-time involvement, research suggests that around 80% drop out by age 12 (Indiana University, 2014). What is the disconnect? The primary reasons for dropping out are: kids are not enjoying themselves, discouragement, boredom, too much pressure (Klint & Weiss (1986). These are all mindset issues and show that we have neglected this aspect of training athletes.
What if programs focused on life skills and self-confidence rather that scores and league standings? And what if clubs and programs focused on the life skill development of not only the athletes but the parents and coaches? I’m not suggesting we don’t keep scores or standings. Our experience has been that athletes with greater self-confidence and a healthy mindset are the better performers. They are simply better able to handle conflict, pressure, negative behavior from opposing teams and parents. They set appropriate and reasonable goals for themselves, pace themselves in practices, choose their friends wisely and maintain better relationships, deal with loss, deal with success, and so on. Because they experience success using the mindset skills they’re taught in practices, they are more likely to use those same skills at school and at home. Because they in turn experience success in school and at home, they are inclined to continue in sport if it is the source of their life skills learning.
This is the ultimate scenario and primary outcome the woman I spoke to entered her kids in sports: self-confidence and life skills. Our mission as parents is to look to the greater mission for our kids: find programs that intentionally focus on development of the person and the results will naturally follow. Rather than register our kids in programs where friends are participating, or who has teams that win the most, or who has the most prestigious coach, investigate and ask questions about how the club intentionally develops the mindset of its athletes.
Next article: How to Develop a Healthy Mindset in Athletes