Many kids lose focus and start to doubt their skills. The result? A performance slump. Increased anxiety. Choking under pressure. It can become an overwhelming cycle.
If your child has poor concentration when competing, there are ways you can help. Follow these simple strategies to help your child play at peak performance by keeping concentration in focus.
- First, talk with your child to figure out what commonly distracts him. Does he/she put too much focus on previous mistakes? Do opponents easily intimidate him/her? Does he/she overthink the process? Different distractions affect different athletes. It could be playing in front of a large crowd or dealing with a trash talking opponent or fan. Identifying common causes of your child’s inability to concentrate is the first step in helping him work through it and stay mentally tough.
- Don’t add to the distractions. It can be hard for parents to admit, but sometimes they are the distraction. Or at least one of them. If you pressure your kid to play well right up until game time, he’ll be focused on not letting you down. If you yell at the refs during games, or hoot and holler from the sidelines, you could be one of your kid’s biggest distractions. Make sure that your presence helps your child’s performance and doesn’t hinder it.
- Once you’ve clearly defined what distracts your child, help him determine the correct things to concentrate on – like his role on the team. Teach him not to think too far ahead – like the outcome of the game – but stay in the present and stick to the basics. Repeating a one-word mantra, like “strong,” “bold,” or “smooth,” can remind him how he should play and avoid overthinking the mechanics of it.
- Creating a pre-game routine can help athletes shut out distractions and stay relaxed before competition. The recurring familiar steps also remind an athlete that this is just another game. Routines can consist of things like warming up a certain way, listening to music, mentally imagining a win. Make sure your child’s routine is something he can control and adjust if needed. The routine should also be practical – not a superstitious ritual, like wearing lucky socks, that has no actual bearing on performance.
Helping your young athlete conquer distractions takes time and practice. Consider hiring a private coach to work one-on-one with your child. A private coach can help your athlete get into a routine, improve skills and gain the confidence necessary to keep distractions in check. Developing your child’s mental game is key to him playing at peak performance.