How to Raise Athletes Who Can Bounce Back

How do you help your child face the same pitcher who struck him out three times already in the game? What will help your young football player keep running with the ball even after he’s fumbled twice in the first quarter? How can you help your tennis player keep playing after she lost the first set at love?

Resiliency is not necessarily something you can teach your kids. It’s not an athletic skill that can be learned. But it is a trait that we all are born with to some degree, a trait which can be nurtured or squelched as a child grows up. Some athletes seem to bounce back easily, while others learn resiliency as they mature. How can you water that resiliency seed in your child?

Let Him/Her Learn to Figure Things Out

It is most likely every parent’s first instinct to rescue a child when there is a hint of difficulty. But next time your young athlete faces a problem, swallow that urge just for a few minutes, and ask your child what he/she thinks he should do about the situation. By asking strategic questions, you can guide him/her to a solution that will actually be his/her idea. Armed with the power of knowing he/she can find his own solutions give him/her the strength to bounce back.

Applaud Your Child’s Process

In a recent study, Dr. Elizabeth Gunderson says that parents should praise their kids on their strategies, jobs they did well, and their effort. Her team calls this “process praise” and concluded that the more process praise kids get during early childhood, the more likely they would become resilient.

Focus on strategies: I like how you read the defense and saw where to pass the ball.

Focus on a job well-done: That pass was right on target!

Focus on effort: Your hard work is really starting to pay off; you’re much quicker on the court!

Remind Your Athlete that Slumps are Part of the Game

If your child struggles with bouncing back after making mistakes in his/her game, remind them that going through a slump is no reflection of his skills and abilities. It happens to every athlete, even in the pros. No one can stay on top 100% of the time. A real athlete understands that and learns to push through the slump. Take some time to share stories of athletes like who’ve bounced back from poor performances like Peyton Manning who threw 6 interceptions in one game or Dwayne Wade who’s played games where he scored little and seemed to be in a slump, then came back with a vengeance the next game. It’s not fun to watch your child struggle, fail, and suffer discouragement, but when you nurture his resiliency, you will see him learn to bounce back on his own.


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