My coaches and I love working with your athletes. The transformation these young kids have not only in their abilities, but emotionally as well is truly gratifying. The boost in confidence and self-esteem some of these kids have can be quite remarkable.
That being said, I’ve been working with my staff to make sure we are careful with how we phrase our compliments and kudos to these athletes. Sometimes one word can be interpreted completely different than the original intention.
I want them to not only be aware of it when they talk to their athletes, but also when we sit down for our original consultation with the parents as well. They have to pay close attention to what the parents say so that they can figure out if maybe expectations for this young athlete has already been set too high.
Exactly, what the &#@% am I talking about here?!
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you have an athlete and she (I’ll say “she” to keep this gender the same throughout) is actually a pretty good athlete. This athlete is not a high school athlete, but still in her formative years of athletic development.
A natural complement for this athlete might be, “Wow, you are an AMAZING athlete!”
Now, that in itself may seem like a great complement for this young athlete. But, you could be creating an unrealistic expectation for this athlete that could really put pressure on her. Meaning, now she feels that she has to do everything AMAZING and if she doesn’t do that all the time, she might feel like she isn’t living up to her standards.
Or it could be, if she continues to hear how AMAZING she is she might think she doesn’t have to work as hard since she is already so AMAZING. Why should she continue to do these drills? She is AMAZING.
Either one of those scenarios could happen and the word doesn’t have to be amazing. It could be awesome, outstanding, etc. That could be some really tough pressure placed on a young athlete unknowingly with a comment that was not intended to serve that purpose.
What should you say?
There are probably a few better phrases you could say, but the easiest would be this, “You are really a HARD WORKER. Keep up the good work.”
The phrase HARD WORKER reinforces what we want to see happening for our athlete. They will continue to push themselves continuously because they’ve been told they are a hard worker and they want to keep proving people right.
They will also accept more and tougher challenges because they want to prove they are a HARD WORKER. Where the AMAZING athlete might not accept as many challenges or potentially harder challenges because once again, she already is AMAZING so why bother.
It seems like such a simple thing, but the changing of two words could really shape the expectations your athlete has for his/herself. I would much rather have the HARD WORKER label for my daughters and my athletes then the AMAZING.
I know that they will then not take practice for granted and continue to pursue excellence in themselves no matter what level they get to in their athletic career.
Photo courtesy of Tsutomu Takasu on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gowestphoto/