New generation communication in sport. Problem solved
Comparing the brain of a child to that of an adult is like comparing an artist to an analyst. The thinking, reasoning, and problem solving techniques are very different. This contrast often leaves adults baffled by the difficulty in helping their child through challenges. Add sports into the mix, and often the struggle doubles.
So why is this?
To begin, children are unique and different from adults mostly because their brains are still forming. Their level of language, understanding, and perspective is not completely connected, and confidence in self-expression is still under construction. And, even though many adults vividly remember their childhood, they are remembering it from an adult perspective, with added layers of experience. This changes the perceived situation for both parties involved.
Therefore, if you are a parent or a coach, working with youth athletes, it may pay to consider restructuring your communication approach to provide more open conversations at the right time. Fortunately, many simple techniques can be used to aid in understanding your athlete and their challenges, in-turn making growing through sport an enjoyable process.
For starters let us look specifically at the following common adult and athlete scenario:
Athlete: When I get in the car after practice, I do not want to talk about practice, but all my mom and/or dad want to talk about is my practice!
Parent: My child puts in many hours at practice and school, I think I have a right to know how it is going, and what they are doing...
As a result, we are left with a battle of requests. So here are some ways to cope.
Parents: when your child gets into the car, it is best to give them ample brain rest. After taxing their mind in various ways through school and practice, the car can be a safe haven of quiet, and recovery for their brain. If you feel the need to chat, you can tell them a bit about your day, family news, or current events. (Hint: sometimes this launches child into communicating an event during their day, but do not make this your intention).
Your intention is to allow ample time for the brain to recover or simply recharge. Of course this may leave you wondering, “When can I find out how my child's day was?"
This is a valid question, and there are times that are better than others. The best time is when you have their attention, during dinner, or before rest. A set of non-direct open ended questions work best. Start with these:
- Who is the most helpful coach during practice...and why?
- What was the easiest and hardest thing you did today?
- Who is the hardest worker on your team... and how can you tell?
Remember too much probing can backfire, just mostly listen. You can always revisit the questions in time.
For teens it is important to manifest an understanding of their self-talk. Do this by simply asking:
- How critical is your inner-talk or thinking during practice? Or in teen words: Does your voice beat you up, when you make a mistake?
- If the coach criticizes you, are you OK with that? Are you able to pull out a positive from what he/she is telling you?
We are all very inclined the second we see our athletes after school and practice, to ask "how did it go today?" This is normal. Therefore it pays to role-play the idea of waiting, and discussing something other than their immediate past activity.
THINK: BRAIN REST = CLARITY.
Everyone will have a much more enjoyable, peaceful car ride home, and you might even create a much coveted line of trust and communication.