There are those who seem to possess natural charismatic, confident qualities and others who exist as wallflowers throughout their school years.
Some will go through life remaining timid and shy while others bloom and blossom in their adult years.
Many times, when a child deemed a wallflower discovers sports – including football – we find within the sport lies a newfound confidence, competence and a truly driven person.
Kids tend to come out of their shells when they find their place in the world, and football is a sport that anyone can play no matter your shape or size. Whether big and slow, short and quick or right down the middle, there’s a spot on the field for you.
Some people ask, “Why football? Why not have kids play other sports?” The answer is simple: For some kids, it’s football they are interested in.
The Utah Girls Tackle football League got some national attention last fall thanks to Sam Gordon, an 11-year-old player whose YouTube highlights landed her on a Wheaties box.
Something that few people know about that league is that about half of the 100 girls in it had never played an organized sport before. But following that season, nearly every one of them went on to play another sport as well.
Football gave them the confidence in their minds and bodies to try.
Here’s four ways that playing football can build confidence in a youngster:
- Being part of a team effort.This works the best with strong, supportive team leadership and coaching. Teams build stories: They talk about plays, about what worked and what didn’t work. They talk about how much they ate at the aftergame pizza party and who spewed cola from his nose when he laughed. Confidence is born through relationships and grows when a team works together, laughs together and supports each other on and off the field.
- Focusing on strengths.When the going gets tough, it might be easy for a new player to get frustrated and want to give up. Playing football provides an opportunity to succeed as a group. Players can wallow in their weaknesses or focus on their strengths, and all children possess strengths – it’s a matter of coaches and parents helping kids find them. If a player can kick the ball through the uprights with little effort but hasn’t developed many defensive skills, then let the child start on special teams. A kid’s confidence will soar by playing a position for which he or she is especially equipped.
- A mixture of praise and criticism.When children play football, they hear plenty of yelling by the coaches. Good coaches provide a healthy mix of praise and constructive criticism to help his players get better. “Son, you missed that important tackle, but you really hustled to the line.” Or, “If you continue to miss tackles, it gives the other team a real advantage, but I like the way you come off the line with intensity.” Depending on the child, a coach can gear his criticism and praise to fit the individual. The goal is to make better players, not crush spirits. The right words can help draw out the best the player has to offer.
- Re-telling game stories.Parents can be instrumental in this process. After every game, point out at least one substantial play your children performed and ask them to tell the story. Include open-ended questions so they can fill in the details. When a kid tells his own version, complete with sound effects and perhaps some embellishment, you’ll hear the confidence welling up in his voice, and it will show on his face, too. There’s nothing wrong with puffing out their chest a bit – it’s creating more room for confidence to flourish. Some parents worry that too much boasting can cause a swelled head or a cocky attitude, but life will take care of balancing that all out. Celebrate your child’s confidence and how it will spill over into other areas of his life.
Playing football instills confidence in children.
Team effort. Focusing on strengths. A mixture of praise and criticism. Telling the best moments. These all play into creating an atmosphere where confidence can advance.
Also, by encouraging their kids to exercise personal accountability over their feelings, actions and reactions, parents make it clear that kids are in control of their confidence and their lives.
Michelle Hill, the Strong Copy Quarterback at Winning Proof, is a sports and fitness content writer. She writes championship content for pro athletes, coaches, sports agents, sports psychologists, fitness professionals and transformation/success coaches. Her writing includes websites, e-newsletters, e-workbooks, brochures, press releases, blog articles and book development. Let’s call an audible for your next writing project that moves you from the red zone into the end zone.