I coach my 7 year old son’s soccer team. We have a boy on the team (not my son) who is exceptionally talented and athletic; he is a fantastic soccer player. I have watched this young boy play for several years now and he is really good. For the first two games at the beginning of this season, he was unstoppable, scoring three goals (the max a player is allowed) in the first half both times, and then having to play defense the remainder of the game.
Then, something happened.
For the next three games, he was not playing like I know he can. He was tentative and not aggressively going for the ball. He hardly scored any goals during these games, when he had maxed out his goal-scoring potential the first two games. I had my suspicions about why that might be. I was mulling over how I could help this young player get back on track and also thinking about conscious parenting and I wondered if I could apply my conscious parenting principles to this coaching situation. So at the next practice, I pulled this boy aside and told him I wanted to talk to him about the last few games. This young boy, in addition to being extremely athletic, also has a maturity about sports where he can remember one game to the next and think about his play at a high level. So I pointed out to him how well he played the first two games and that, having watched him play for several years now, I know what he is capable of and that he played his best those first two games. But then the next three games, he seemed “off.” I asked him if he agreed and he said yes. Then I asked him if he had any ideas about why that had happened and what might have been causing it. He instantly knew what the problem had been that had thrown him off course. He said in our third game of the season, there was a boy on the other team (who I remember was bigger than him) who was playing very rough and shoving him all around on the field. I remember exactly what he was talking about; it was a very physical game with the entire team. He also said the players on the other team were bragging and “talking trash” a lot during the game. That was exactly what I suspected had happened to throw him off course; he was intimidated. I then explained to him that while it was in fact a rough, physical game and the other players did not have the best sportsmanship, he had actually allowed those players to get inside of his own head and change the way he played soccer. He fully agreed with me. I told him that he is a very talented soccer player and the only thing he can do for any game or practice is to play the best soccer that he is capable of, and not to let the other players “get in his head” and intimidate him. He listened intently and fully agreed with me. So I told him that what I would like to see in our next game was for him to not concern himself with who is on the other side of the field and to stay in his own head and play the best soccer he can at the highest level he is capable of. He enthusiastically agreed with my suggestion.
The next game arrived.
Before he went out on the field, I asked him if he remembered what we talked about at practice and he said yes. Then he proceeded to run out on the field, play as well as I have ever seen him play and end up scoring three goals again in the first half and have to be moved back on defense for the second half. This young soccer player “was back.”
This story is an excellent example of how the principles of conscious parenting can be applied to youth sports. The most important thing any of us want is to be seen and heard and understood for the unique individuals we are. By showing this young boy that I saw him, honored him and understood who he was, I helped him to break through this mental block that he had and get back to being the best (soccer player) he can be.
Imagine if we took these principles and applied them to all areas of our lives…