How to Unlock Athletes’ Minds from Avoiding Mistakes

Perfectionism in Young Athletes

Fear of Failure and Youth Sports

A young athlete asks:

“I’m a 14-year old basketball player. I keep holding back on the court because I’m afraid to mess up. What should I do?”

Fear of failure is one of the most common issues in youth sports.

Your children often feel the pressure of the spotlight that sports can impose on them.

They may be worried about disappointing you, their friends, or their coaches. They may worry about embarrassing themselves after all of the work they’ve put into the sport.

They May Feel an Intense Pressure not to Let Anyone Down

ALL of these issues can add up and play a part in making your children fail to perform to their potential because they’re afraid of failing or making mistakes.

When kids play to avoid making mistakes, they perform tentatively, and avoid taking the all-important risks that allow them to excel.

New issues may arise, such as worries about what everyone is thinking of them, and if these issues aren’t addressed, your children may feel the urge to quit the team or the sport altogether.

While they should be concentrating on what they can do to help the team execute plays, they may get stuck thinking about what could go wrong if they make the wrong pass, fumble the ball, or strike out one more time.

Your athletes are worrying about what could go wrong at a time when they should be concerned with how they can make things go right!

When kids avoid making mistakes, you want them to understand why they are avoiding mistakes…

Ask your Athletes:

  • “What would be so bad if you mess up?”
  • “What do you think will happen if you make mistakes in the competition?”
  • “Will the coach be upset? Will your teammates be disappointed?”

First, your kids have to let go of worrying about how others might react and what it means to them if they make mistakes.

Second, you want your athletes to focus on what they want to accomplish, such as make a good pass, instead of worrying about making a mistake, such as giving up a turnover.

For more tips on how to help your children overcome their fear of failure, check out our popular program for perfectionist kids who are afraid of failing here

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