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How to Handle the Defeated Mindset and Fill Your Player's Tank

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My 15-years old daughter has played team sports for years. Unfortunately, self-esteem/confidence are at an all-time low of 0/10. She is cluttered with negative self-talk, a defeated attitude/mindset/body language. Her coaches said today she is "un-coachable". She is removed from the competition team. Her coaches ask that she continues with practice, training to build her confidence. The removal from competition follows an abysmal tournament competition. She had a lot of "I can't", "I won't". She cried once; her eyes welled up with tears (on the court) toward the end of final game.

This very negative mindset, body language, and shutting down (coaches & teammates alike) worsened following an injury (out for 8 wks), and discovery of learning impairments (dyslexia among others, left v. right) which have affected her academic performance significantly. I do not know what to do about (re) building her confidence, self-esteem. She is surrounded by encouragers (family/friends) who hold her accountable. She gives up so quickly but is hanging on (for dear life) to sports (volleyball et al). How I can help her love herself, her skills in the game? How do I find the right coaching match for her; are there coaches who can help build her (back) up? Therapists/Counselors?

What will turn this around without more talking, taking her out of sports (we've done that too)? To be singled-out and removed from a team following a big competition in which the team (and most individuals on the team) performed poorly can be a devastating blow to any player; let alone one who lacks resilience and confidence. Thanks in advance for your feedback, guidance, and expertise.

Response from Amy Manson, PCA Trainer and Culture Change/Implementation Manager 

Wow! Being a teenager is just not easy! Especially when the things you count on for fun, like sports, are just not fun anymore. Sounds like your daughter has got an emotional tank that could use a fill-up. Unfortunately, you can’t always control the type of people and culture surrounding your child but look to where you do have control.

When it comes to filling her tank, some things that might help would be: Listening without judgement, giving specific truthful praise, showing appreciation, positive body language and other non-verbals.

A big source of confidence can be putting one’s effort towards a worthy goal and noticing progress towards that goal. Perhaps you, or another adult could help your daughter to set some challenging but realistic goals, in different areas of her life, and then help her by noticing and praising even the smallest bit of progress towards any of those goals. If competing again is important to her, let her know that she can get there with the factors that are within her control: Effort & Attitude.

Maybe bring attention to the fact that everyone plays a role on the team (the hard worker, the clown, the leader, the mama hen, the whiner, the optimist, etc..) and see if she understands and cares about the role she has been playing for her team. Those roles either raise or lower the energy of the team and sometimes that’s all we need to hear to be a little more intentional about our attitude, and how it affects ourselves and others.

One last idea might be to have a discussion on what your daughter wants out of her sports experience: Friends? Fun? Recreation? Challenge? Improvement? Physical Activity? Hopefully, this would help to get her back in touch with why she joined sports in the first place.