Millions of young children participate in sports across the world, from joining a football team or training camp, finding a love for running or a natural ability to stand and move on a surface other than normal walking ground. At a grassroots level the focus is on the “FUNdamentals of learning” (Sports Coach UK, 2015), where balance, agility and coordination skills are learned with emphasis on the fun, enjoyment and social aspect of the sport. This starting point provides the basic skills for talented youngsters to progress with more focused training and a view to start competing. As the physiological aspects are being developed and the technical skills honed, psychology for such young athletes can be overlooked.
There is a huge dropout of youth participants in sport which cover many difference reasons but contributing factors which are frequently mentioned are; stress, anxiety, increased emphasis on winning rather than participation and lack of intrinsic motivation and the desire to fulfill their goals (Cox, 2002). As sport builds healthy habits and attitudes, which also benefits life outside of a sporting arena, positive experiences at an early age will only serve to build up children and maintain their interest for a longer period of time.
The mental development of a young child under the tutelage of a sports coach will be a priority but the parents, who also have a very important but often underrated role to play in this area, can also aid it. They help mold a young athlete; combining home, school, sports and leisure time can be difficult and they help focus young minds and provide the correct balance between activities.
To develop a positive, confident and motivated young athlete, parents can be mindful of the following:
Many children will continue to be involved in sports every year and some will have the ability to succeed to higher-level competitions and more intense training regimes. The points above are a great start in building esteem and confidence for any standard of performance, as laying strong foundations for the psychological aspect of sports will help the athlete cope with increasing physical and technical demands that come with progression and attainment.