Friday, August 26, 2011

Helping Young Athletes Avoid the Blame Game After Setbacks

When your sports kids get a bad call from a ref, lose a game when it’s raining or make a bad pass when a dog is barking, do they blame the ref, the rain and the dog?

If so, your kids need to learn how to take responsibility for mistakes and failures. And your words and actions will either contribute to the Blame Game–or help kids shoulder the responsibility.

That’s the word from Rob Barber, president of USAthletic Baseball. He has coached a number of baseball players who have become major league players. He says that avoiding the Blame Game is critical for young athletes, and it’s all about making a commitment to developing as players.

“Frustration and failure come to us all; that’s part of the process. There’s nothing unusual or crazy about frustration and failure. This is part of the commitment we’re making.”

As sports parents and coaches, it’s critical for you to remember that how you communicate with your young athletes can contribute to the Blame Game.

“The language adults’ use and how they describe the successes and failures of their kids is extremely important. If a kid makes a mistake in a game, parents sometimes want to buffer the kid. We might blame the mistake on a bad coaching decision. We need to teach kids to take responsibility for what happened,” he says.

When kids take responsibility, they’re more likely to fare better when they encounter the same challenge again, he says.

In addition to being careful about how you talk to your young athletes about setbacks, you need to set a good example. If you’re at a game and your child or teen gets a bad call from a ref, don’t point it out or complain. Encourage your child to move on.

What’s more, you can point out role models for your children. If you’re watching a game on TV and you see an athlete handle a setback with grace and responsibility, point this out to your child.

If an athlete is interviewed by a reporter after a loss and takes responsibility for his or her contribution to the loss, you should discuss this with your kids. These are athletes who are committed to developing as players. They take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them, rather than blaming others.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, it’s also critical for you to help young athletes move on after experiencing setbacks or making mistakes. Give them that “flushing sign,” which means, “Flush it and move onto the next play.” Later, they can think about how they could learn from the mistake. This great advice comes from the Positive Coaching Alliance.