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Editor's note: Nancy Justis is a former competitive swimmer and collegiate sports information director. She is a partner with Justis Creative Communications.
By Nancy Justis, correspondent
My last column discussed how low self-esteem in girls can put them at risk for certain health problems and how participating in sports can improve their self-esteem.
Parents and coaches can help build self-esteem in both boys and girls.
According to a Merriam-Webster Dictionary, self-esteem is defined as 'a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities; a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.”
Jeanne Goodes, a contributor to 'Adolescent Fitness & Sports,” explains how self-esteem can be applied to youth athletes.
'The athlete has self-respect for him- or herself, not only as an athlete, but as a person, and the athlete has respect for his or her athletic skills and abilities ... this is an internal reading measured by the athlete. It is not an external judgment made by a parent, coach, trainer or teammate.
'Whether or not the athlete accepts external comments, opinions and judgments and whether or not the athlete uses these observations for internal measurements is dependent upon the individual athlete.”
She goes on to say those external contacts are partially responsible for improving an athlete's self-esteem. She bases her steps to helping build self-esteem to Dr. Patrick Cohn's article '7 Ways to Help Your Athlete Play with More Confidence.” Her explanation of some of his seven points include:
- Let go of fear. By understanding athletes will make mistakes, by allowing athletes to make mistakes and by allowing athletes to learn from those mistakes, coaches can help athletes lose their fear and, subsequently, the athletes can play a harder, more focused game.
- Play freely instead of holding back. Knowing and believing the athlete has done everything possible to prepare for the event not only gives the athlete a mental edge over the competition, but also increases the athlete's belief in his or her skills and abilities. The athlete's knowledge and belief in his or her skills allows for freely applying these abilities needed during the competition.
- Make no comparisons. Each athlete must be looked at individually, as a valuable asset to the team, and each athlete should understand the value he or she brings to the team.
- Play for yourself, not others. With the guidance of parents, coaches and trainers, it is important to help the youth athlete realize his or her athletic performance does not define who he or she is - it is just another dimension of who he or she is ... in the end, an athlete's performance is just that - his or her performance.
- Don't try to be perfect. Coaches and trainers must allow for mistakes. They are learning opportunities.
- Be confident. The athlete must have confidence in the hours spent mentally and physically preparing for the event - the repetitions, workouts and the coaching.
Another article on BellyBelly.com lists additional ways to build your child's self-esteem, including:
- Praise your child for effort and completion of tasks, not just for the outcome.
- Be a good role model.
- Give your child responsibilities, which gives the child a sense of achievement.
- Give your child plenty of love and affection.
- Let them make decisions. Their own choices where appropriate.
- Spend time with them.
- Focus on positive behavior.
- Let them lead the play.
- Create a wall of fame, displaying their successes.
One of my favorite blogs is 'Anchor Mom,” written by KWWL-TV news anchor Amanda Goodman. One of her recent blogs was titled, 'Let them fall ... they'll get up.”
'I blame helicopter parents for participation trophies,” she wrote. 'What happened to letting our children feel a little bit of hurt? ... I'm talking the hurt that comes with disappointment ... not getting to play in the game, not getting a trophy because they didn't win.”
She wrote we are setting our kids up for failure because if they don't get enough playing time, 'parents yell at the coach.
'We need to accept this: our children are not perfect ... they are going to fail. AND THAT IS OK. Let them fall ... so they learn how to get back up.”
Looking back, I see where I thought it was much easier to do something myself rather than let my daughter try to do it. Was I sending the message I didn't think she was capable of handling the task?
l Let us know what you think by contacting Justis at firstname.lastname@example.org