How to raise courageous athletes

how to raise courageous athletes

How to raise courageous athletes is all about the psychological side of the game. Parents living with children who are passionate about sports have the opportunity to teach key lessons for life. One of those crucial lessons that seem to infiltrate so many other lessons, is courage. Courage will enable a child to continue in the face of setbacks and difficulty. Considering what children have already had to live through with the pandemic, having courage will stand them in good stead for their lifetime.

how to raise courageous athletes

Develop confidence from an early age

Live by giving your children authentic encouragement. Encouragement is the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. There is an art to encouragement. Show interest in what your children love. Be present. Spend time at their games. Show up when they participate in something new. Be their biggest fan, no matter what. But always be sincere.

You don’t have to wait for a win to encourage your child, in fact it will often make the greatest impact when you encourage your child through the painful times. Be specific about what you’re encouraging them about if you’re doing it at a time when they keep losing. For example, encourage them about how important effort is in life, and how far people get when they pick themselves up and keep trying; using examples will of course help.

Guide them to trust their own abilities and make their own decisions

We all know how important decision-making is – on and off the field. Confident people make decisions. It’s simply a skill that is learnt. Children learn by observation. Talk to your child through some decisions you’re making and the values you’ve used to come to a conclusion on it. Give them the opportunity to make decisions and experience the results. Allow them to make mistakes and show them how they can learn from those mistakes.

The football field is a wonderful environment to practise decision making and to experience the result. Our coaches will often talk through decisions made on the pitch with our players at the end of each session/match. This “reflection time” is a great time to reinforce the lessons learnt and can be done at home while reading a book and reflecting on the character’s decisions, or after a decision has been made in another area of life.

Help them to see life’s challenges as lessons that get us to where we need to be

Brené Brown has a brilliant saying, “Failure is an imperfect word because the moment you learn from it, it ceases being a failure and becomes a lesson instead. To show up and be seen in a harsh and unforgiving world can be frightening, but it’s not as scary as getting to the end of our lives and asking, ‘What if I would have shown up?’”

Demonstration often has the most powerful impact. When you ‘fail’ at something, don’t beat yourself up about it. If an apology is needed, give one, learn and move on. Show your children how life’s challenges are lessons to be learnt.

Show them a growth mindset, which will always see that effort is more important than the result. A growth mindset will change their whole perspective on life. Encourage them to see that losing the game or experiencing any kind of ‘failure’ are just opportunities for growth.

These practices often mean that you choose courage over comfort…..

Give them the courage to take risks and move out of their comfort zone

Rachel Nyaradzo Adams says:

“I have learnt that the only lens that matters when we are faced with the difficult and unknowable, is courage; that characteristic that CS Lewis described as, ‘not just a virtue, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.’ When we start to see life move in a direction that is not supportive of our highest ideals, we must be willing to wear courage as our armour.”

Brené Brown is well known for quoting Theodore Roosevelt, and for good reason. He said something that has the potential to inspire you, whether you choose to live courageously or not.

Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Show your children how to wear courage as armour in the face of difficulties, how to live in the arena! This constant demonstration costs, but it’s a sacrifice worth living; and you’ll start to see your child grow from strength to strength, not shrinking back in fear. 

Show them how to practise vulnerability

If you’re truly courageous and practise it often enough, the likelihood of you falling is pretty high. It’s what you do after the fall that counts.

If you’re wanting your child to be courageous, you will have to show them how to be vulnerable. Past culture has taught us that vulnerability is weakness. Current culture wants to mask vulnerability in pursuit of oversharing details with the public (just spend a few minutes on social media). Neither is true. Vulnerability is courage, it is the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Will you allow your control to loosen, and your risk of being judged increase by choosing to attend a new fitness class, or by sticking up for the underdog, or by starting up a new business? By doing so, you’re demonstrating vulnerability to your child, and in essence, how to live courageously.

Always keep enjoyment over achievement at the forefront of their minds

Loving the game of football and having a real interest in the sport is where it’s all at. Enjoyment is crucial, because without fun and without enjoyment, what’s the point? As a parent of an athlete, it’s crucial that you balance your encouragement for aiming high and having fun. When times are tough, draw their focus back to how much they love the game. As it often goes in life, your mindset is what determines the outcome. Athletes whose mindset is focused on enjoyment over achievement are more likely to be successful.

Brain-boosting tips, Brain-centred Training, Children, courageous athletes, Football, football academy, football player, IQ Football, Mindset, neuroscience, parenting, Soccer, Soccer Academy, youth athletes


Sean Szabo

Recognised as a leading brain-centred football coach in Gauteng, Sean Szabo is an English FA qualified coach who has worked internationally assisting player’s motor and technical football skills, as well as their cognitive development on and off the field. IQ Football was founded in 2015 by Sean as an amalgamation of his passion for football coaching, mentoring, and brain-centred research.

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