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Coaching Youth Bowlers: A Guide for Coaches and Parents PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Slowinski   
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
I wrote the following in a parent guide I developed to help parents understand our program.  As you can imagine, in a national elite youth development program, many parents were applying pressure on both the youth bowlers and coaches.  These research briefing provides an easy-to-read overview of how coaches and parents should operate to maximize development in their bowlers.

Coaching Youth Bowlers

Joe Slowinski, ABD, M.Ed.

Research[1][2] on youth sports illustrates clearly that both parents and coaches play an important role in a child’s sporting life.  Specifically, you as a coach/parent have a significant influence over whether the bowler will be more likely to be anxious with performance or develop an enjoyment of the sport.  Specifically, especially under the age of 14, if you focus more on performance, the child will develop a fear of failure and have anxiety about their performance.  And, this is not a world-class trait, thus, delaying their development and talent.  Research on successful Olympians showed that the best of the best had little fear of failure and were optimistic.  But, these Olympians had positive support from coaches, peers and family.  You play a critical role in the future success of your child. If you focus on the mastery of the skills, rather than scoring, your child will be more intrinsically motivated and not have a fear of failure that will lead to being anxious.   And, this is a world-class attribute. In a United States Olympic Committee study of 10 of the most successful Olympians in the history of the Modern Games, champions were more internally motivated than non-champions.  Your role, as described above, will support this love of the game and intrinsic motivation. In study of elite youth skiers and wrestlers, athletes were significantly more likely to enjoy their sport and have more satisfaction when their parents did not focus on failure.  Specifically, these kids’ parents did not get upset at a child’s performance.  Rather, they were enthusiastic about involvement in the sport.  And, this equated to a higher level of enjoyment and satisfaction in the sport.  This is a critical element of the healthy development of children under the age of 14. If you are serious about helping the child develop into a future champion, praise them when they perform the skills correctly or make an effort.  This will provide psychological support that elite athletes need.  Literally, don’t say anything if they make a mistake.  They already know. And, this can stifle their development.  Specifically, research on those children with high anxiety, they worried more about receiving negative feedback.  This places their focus on failure rather than succeeding.  Obviously, that is not a world-class psychological game.  But, this is the impact of significant adults in the life of the child.  In a study of talented teenagers, psychologist Csikszentmihalyi found that: o        Teenagers cannot develop talent unless they are intrinsically motivated and enjoy the activities while working hard to achieve their goals;  o        No child succeeds unless he or she is supported by caring adults. Research on parental involvement in sports has shown that a number of factors contribute negatively to a child’s development including: an overemphasis on winning, holding unrealistic expectations, coaching your own child, criticizing their own child and pampering their child. Take a quick moment and ask yourself if you are guilty of any of these potential inhibitors of development. 


[1] Hedstrom, R. & Gould., D. (2004).  Research in Youth Sports: Critical Issues Status.  Lansing, MI: Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University.

[2] Gould, D., Dieffenbach, K. & Moffet, A. (2001).  Psychological Characteristics of Olympic Champions.  USOC Olympic Coach E-Magazine.  United States Olympic Committee

 
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