Replace Frustration with Knowledge

Is frustration dominating your child’s athletic experience?  

When a young athlete can’t let go of frustration after failure, it’s a clear indication they have no clue how to make an adjustment, leaving them vulnerable to more of the same. And when adults get over-involved during the game, it usually makes things worse.  

A parent’s natural reaction is to come to the rescue when their kids are struggling. But during competition, excessive coaching really amounts to an attempt by the parent to make something happen immediately. The truth is, it can’t happen if the athlete hasn’t learned it. The athlete must be the one who possesses the knowledge to turn things around in the moment. Learning this takes time and training with intention. There are no shortcuts.

Adults should have proper perspective when young athletes fail, not just raise their voices in disgust.

There are many resources available today that help parents and coaches gain knowledge about technique and mental concentration. When parents put forth an honest effort to learn, they are less likely to raise their voices in disgust because they have gained knowledge about the difficulties their kids face. Once everyone gains a better understanding of how things work, young athletes will be better equipped to make adjustments on the fly, less likely to experience frustration and more likely to experience joy.

Experience is gained on the field, but technical skills are gained through practice. A balanced approach to both is necessary to achieve excellence. One relies on the other. When basic mechanics are mastered and control of the body is achieved, learning to apply these skills comes next—not the other way around.

“Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.” – Bruce Lee

Weak groundouts in baseball, missed free throws in basketball and missed penalty kicks in soccer are normal mistakes that happen to everyone, even the best players. But the best players tend to possess an attribute that others do not: Knowledge about what may have caused their failure and knowledge about how to adjust.

Here are some common phrases heard at a youth baseball game that inhibit a struggling player’s performance. Every sport has similar phrases.

  • “Throw strikes!” – These useless words only add more pressure. The young, inexperienced pitcher is well aware that they are trying to throw strikes. But there are reasons why they can’t. Has there been any previous credible instruction? If not, having control and throwing strikes probably won’t happen today.
  • “Swing harder!” – This usually causes young hitters to swing out of their shoes, resulting in poor mechanics. With an out-of-control body, weak results are predictable.
  • “You gotta have that one!” – Many times in youth baseball you hear this being shouted from the stands when a player makes an error on what was clearly not a routine play. In the big leagues this is a base hit, but many times in youth ball we hear, “C’mon, you gotta have that one!“

When the game starts, it’s time to let go of worry and anxiety about outcomes and just enjoy the experience of being an athlete. When this is accomplished, a person’s training and natural ability have a chance to flourish and grow. Frustration will be replaced by the knowledge that they have prepared for this moment.

Chuck Schumacher is the author of “How to Play Baseball: A Parents Role in Their Child’s Journey,” available at www.chuckschumacher.com (signed copy) or Amazon. Chuck has 20 years experience as a youth baseball coach and 40 years experience in martial arts. In 2006, he opened Chuck’s Gym in Franklin, Tenn., where he teaches baseball and Okinawan karate. You can contact Chuck at [email protected]

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