How to Prevent Victim Mentality in the Young Athlete

You never want your child to feel like a victim—especially when it applies to youth sports. Victim mentality will not help a team win games, nor will it help your child play to their potential and feel good.

Professor and behavioral expert Robert E. Quinn says this about victim mentality:

A true victim is a person who suffers a loss because of the actions of others. A victim mentality, though, is the belief that salvation comes only from the action of others. And….like a disease, the condition tends to spread.

Unfortunately, the ‘victim disease’ has spread through youth sports. More and more young athletes have changed their I-can-do-it attitude to one of helplessness—often waiting for someone else to solve a problem.

In John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech, he challenged the younger generation to ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country. If we apply the same sentiment to youth sports, the challenge becomes: Ask not what your team can do for you, but what you can do for your team. This  kind of thinking does not allow room for a victim mentality.

If parents and coaches want to help young athletes steer clear of a victim mentality, they must teach athletes to:

  • Stop making excuses and accept responsibility.
  • Celebrate the success of teammates.

And parents and coaches must lead by:

  • Giving constructive criticism that truly helps athletes better their skills.
  • Making every athlete feel valued and important to the team.
  • Model a positive we-can-do-this attitude. (This doesn’t mean you are expecting a win, but it does mean you are expecting the team to play their best and that’s what they need to hear.)

In the current youth-sports culture, it is a daunting task to teach athletes to be proactive in their approach. But it can be as simple as encouraging them to believe in themselves, and know that they can make a difference.


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