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Rugby Tip of the Month – 3 Sports Psychology Tips for Parents and Coaches


Sports Psychology Tip No.1: Lower Expectations

You might not know that coaches’ and parents’ high expectations for their kids can cause kids to feel pressured. Parents and coaches sometimes impose their own expectations on their kids, with the intended goal of boosting kids’ confidence. But often, this has the opposite effect.

Athletes who have high levels of self-confidence end up in the winner’s circle. You want your athletes to feel fully confident at game time. That means you need to keep your expectations in check. Parents’ and coaches’ overly high expectations can cause athletes to focus too much on the results. This often makes them feel frustrated, especially when they are not performing up to their (and your) standards.

Sports Psychology Tip No.2: Watch What You Say

Here’s how it works: Parents and coaches, in their sincere efforts to be supportive, often say things that kids interpret as expectations. For example, a parent with good intentions might say to an athlete, “You’ve been working so hard, you should score 3 tries today.”

At first, you might think this sounds supportive. It’s what parents should say to improve their athlete’s confidence, right? Wrong.

Many athletes do not interpret such well-meaning input this way. In fact, we have found that young players interpret such statements in surprising ways. Some athletes might think they need to be perfect on the field and score a try with every touch of the ball, and if they don’t, they are letting down the parent or the coach. You might think this sounds like a stretch, but this is how the minds of young athletes work. Kids internalize or adopt your high expectations, then become overly concerned or worried about making every tackle or scoring every time for fear of letting others down.

Sports Psychology Tip No.3: Emphasize Process Over Results

Be careful about the expectations you communicate to your young athletes. We suggest you instead focus on more manageable goals or objectives that help kids focus on the process.

For example, you might ask players to get their hands up to receive a pass. Your players can accomplish these important objectives more often than scoring a try.


Adapted from


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