Identifying when a kid is beating themselves up

It's very important as a coach to tell when a player has a healthy driver for wanting a better personal performance, recognizing moments when not feeling satisfied with one's practice is a great sign of ambition. However, I see a moment often unrecognized when a player is actually being too hard on themselves and turning into a counterproductive mentality, commonly thought of as  "beating themselves up." 

This is the moment when there are minor mistakes made and the player responds by,

  • hitting themselves
  • cursing at themselves
  • self insulting
  • stomping the ground 
  • refusing to participate out of frustration
  • projecting blame onto others
  • overly aggressive

When, as a coach, you see these signs, you can conclude that the players mentality has turned into self sabotage. They are over analyzing every step of the task at hand and they move too slow or even stop in the middle of an activity to ask questions. These are all methods to avoid completing the activity because they are afraid to complete the activity incorrectly. Then once they finally finish the task at hand, the attitude becomes even more depressed very quickly.

Correcting this behavior is done by creating an atmosphere where making mistakes is ok. This will only be done if you the trainer or parent come to the child in a genuine mental state, if you cannot do it, do not bother continuing with the player because they can tell the false energy a mile away. You need to ground your emotions and care before any instruction can be given. Using examples of yourself making mistakes or highlighting when you do make a mistake and showing a light hearted attitude will always work best. Then performing the drill at hand properly after making a mistake will create the beginning of a trusting environment. Use those moments to show how after making mistakes and trying again, you became better.

The next step is to set smaller goals that are easily achievable; break it down to remove the enormity of a mistake. No matter what mistake happens now. it's just a small building within small steps to lead to a bigger accomplishment. This in turn will fill a player's self worth and create a safe to fail system for continued growth with the player.

Remember, you must come to the player as authentic as possible. If you need to remind them of the greats who fail, everyone knows the story of Michael Jordan. Yet, humbling yourself and showing your humanity will always be the best method in reaching into a player and building trust. 

Daniel McKell