Three Ways Parents Can Build Grit in Youth Soccer Players POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 24, 2021 BY DR. BRAD MILLER Performance
As part of an ongoing mindset fitness content series powered by Soccer Resilience, Dr. Brad Miller Psy.D., shares three ways to build perseverance in younger players to help them deal with setbacks.Every time our kids play soccer and other sports, whether they are 8 or 18, they will make mistakes, have setbacks, and encounter losses. That’s why the most important life skill is the ability to persevere, also called grit. Since the most important factor in determining our kids’ grit, or perseverance, is their environment, parents have an enormous and wonderful opportunity to help our kids embrace challenges and build more grit. Below are three ways to do this.
Be a model of grit for your child
More is caught than taught. Kids learn so much more from what they see us doing than what we tell them to do. When you go through hardships, try to model grit by sharing: You are distressed (i.e., stressed, frustrated) and this is a challenge. If you aren’t able to make progress, you will get support, ideas and/or help from others. If you keep trying new ideas, eventually you will overcome this challenge and grow. When your kid hears and sees you take these steps over and over again, they are more likely to internalize this and persevere when they have challenges. This builds grit.
Accept that your child will have setbacks
We do not grow perseverance and grit when things go well and are easy. We only grow grit through setbacks and hardships. This is why you want your kid to have some obstacles and even make mistakes. These hurdles create opportunities to build more grit – and resilience – for the next challenge in soccer and in life.
Focus on and praise your kid’s perseverance
Our body language, facial expressions and words can have a huge impact on our kids’ ability to push through mistakes and setbacks. Our challenge is to steer our mind away from focusing on our kids’ mistakes and shift our focus to how they respond to their mistakes. A few years ago, my 13 year old daughter scored an own goal in a big tournament. How did she respond? She kept working. She actually played better. Her team lost. As we are walking toward each other after the game, negative thoughts are going through my mind such as, “Why wasn’t your body square when you headed the ball? That’s why it went in your goal!” Honestly, when my daughter was 10, my body language and facial expressions during the game, and my questions after the game, would’ve shown my daughter that I was disappointed in her for her mistake. Fortunately, I have learned to steer my mind away from the critical thoughts to focus on how she pushed through her setback. When we met I said, “I am really proud of you for playing so hard after your own goal. A lot of players struggle to recover after that and you pushed through it.
” When we repeatedly send this message to our kids, they will learn that you as a parent value sticking with it and playing through and even striving through mistakes. This trains our kids’ brains to focus on, and value, effort and perseverance after mistakes. This makes it more likely our kids will have more grit for the next setback on and off the field, which increases confidence. A good message is even when we lose, we don’t fail – we learn and grow.
Dr. Brad Miller, Psy.D. – Founder of Soccer Resilience Dr. Brad Miller, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist, has spent over 20 years helping youth and adult athletes grow their ability to control their performance anxiety and stress, to persevere and improve their overall sports performance. Brad played at Wake Forest University (1989 ACC Champion), and as a lifelong soccer player, coach and parent, he knows a thing or two about the game. Founded in 2020, Soccer Resilience is a sports mindset agency that believes the psychological elements of the player, coach, parent and sport are vital. We believe that strengthening your mind is as important as strengthening your skill, tactics and athleticism. That’s why our mission is to train the most underutilized competitive edge in sports, the MIND, transforming the mindset and elevating the wellbeing of athletes, coaches and parents. Mental strength gives athletes control, purpose, perseverance and performance enhancement. In addition to Dr. Brad Miller, the Soccer Resilience team includes a World Cup Champion, Jessica McDonald, a MLS Cup Champion, Wells Thompson, an 18-year NCAA Division 1 Head Coach, Matt Spear, and more. Soccer Resilience offers 1:1 coaching, mental training sessions for teams, clubs, organizations, and an online ‘academy’ – Soccer Resilience FC – with tools, strategies, education and inspiration. Learn more at soccerresilience.com