I received an email about an athlete who believes a few teammates and his coach do not like him. I thought you might be interested in how I responded to him.
Also, I have been lucky enough to be invited to a few podcasts about youth sports and mental toughness. Here are the links in case you are interested:
Winning Youth Coaching Podcast http://WinningYouthCoaching.com
Episode 050: James Leath talks Mental Toughness, Travel Sports Alternatives, and Coaching [link]
Episode 032: James Leath talks achieving peak mental performance [link]
How to deal with a Bully Coach [link]
Hey Coach Leath,
I read your note from last week on the power of beliefs and I was wondering, will you share some more on beliefs? I have one student who is younger (12) who just made the hockey team as the 18th player and believes that his coach and some teammates don't really like him. How would I help him with that?
Thank you for your question. Many of my thoughts on the power of belief come from books like As a Man Thinketh (1903) and Think and Grow Rich (1937). More recently, the book The Secret (2006) has brought those original ideas written 100 years ago to pop culture. The last two have a very spiritual nature to them, but don't let that scare you away from the overall message: we become what we think about. Our beliefs determine our experience in the world. What we believe dictates our behavior, and our behavior shapes our surroundings. I have found that to be very true.
Consider for a moment that the athletes on his team don't like him...it's possible. However, if he is manifesting that belief by telling himself over and over they don't like him, he is most likely being stand-offish at practice and viewing every action the team makes as an attack, therefore creating the very thing he believes may be happening to him.
Next time you talk to him, ask him about a situation in which he thought someone was being mean. Then have him imagine if he was friends with the guy who committed the offense. Often, we dismiss our friends’ mistreatment as playfulness, but if a stranger did it we would want to fight. We are what we think we are, and if he thinks he is hated by some players on the team, and the coach, then in his reality, he is. Perhaps you can get him to change his mind, and therefore, change his experience with the team and coach.
Then again, they may very well not like him. In that case, he needs to ask himself why he is playing the sport. If it is to be liked by everyone, then maybe a less competitive team is more appropriate. Sounds to me like a great opportunity to learn some emotional resilience. Today's youth could use a few lessons in the school of hard knocks.
James Leath is a youth sports psychology consultant with over 15 years experience coaching young athletes. He writes a weekly note to athletes, coaches and parents on subjects that pertain to sports psychology, youth sports, and personal development. He is currently finishing his masters in Performance Psychology and lives in San Luis Obispo, CA. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @jamesleath, or visit his website jamesleath.com.