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Erin Mirabella
Erin Mirabella
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Raising Confident Kids Through Sports.

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Try This At Home………………

Take a glass jar and at least thirty colored strips of paper.  On each strip of paper have your child write down one thing that he or she likes about his or herself or does well.  Fill the jar with the strips and have them put the jar someplace they will see it everyday.  The next time your child is feeling down or is lacking confidence, have he or she read through all of the papers in the jar and remember how blessed and loved he or she is.  You can always have your child add five or ten more strips to the jar for good measure.


I recently spoke to a group of moms with children ages 0-5, about how sports can facilitate teaching their children the fundamentals for success.  One of the discussion questions afterward asked if there was a related issue that their child was struggling with.  Two of the moms said their child lacked self-confidence and one said her son was over confident.  This caught me off guard; I hadn’t expected children to be struggling with confidence at such a young age.  It reaffirmed for me what an important topic confidence was and how vital a healthy self-confidence is to a child’s happiness and well-being. 

This post is going to focus on lack of self-confidence and I’ll tackle the issue of being over-confident next week. 

Sports, or any activity that your child loves, are a great opportunity to increase confidence.  The most important thing, is to help your child find a sport, or activity, that he or she loves and can excel at.  Your child’s success will help them gain confidence in his or herself and abilities.

In addition, being in sports, especially team sports, makes it easier for kids to meet people and make friends.  Two of the biggest concerns for children and adults alike are being accepted and worrying what people think of them. In sports your child already shares something in common with his or her teammates and that makes developing a friendship that much easier.  Furthermore, sports offer the opportunity to develop social skills such as teamwork, tact, cooperation and compassion.  

We all worry about what we look like. For tweens and teens their changing bodies can be a confusing and sensitive subject.  An added bonus of sports is that they make kids more aware of, and in tune with, their bodies.  Athletes tend to be very comfortable with their bodies and have a more realistic expectation of what their bodies should look like.  They can compare themselves to other athletes instead of the models they see in magazines, and they’ll understand that bodies can be used for more than just looking good. 

Another added benefit is that self-confident kids are less likely to fold to peer pressure, more willing to try new things and probably more successful, because they believe they will succeed.

There are two steps to gaining confidence, building it up and maintaining it.  Sometimes an incident can get in your head and mess with your confidence forever.  It’s happened to all of us and years later we are still haunted by it.  That’s why it is so important for your child to get back up on the horse after a fall, so to speak.  While my husband Chris and I were discussing this week’s post, he pointed out that in the NFL, teams often give the ball back to a player immediately after they fumble or miss a catch, in order to rebuild their confidence right away.  The longer your child has to think about a mistake before he or she performs again, the more it can shake his or her confidence. It is better to address it as soon as possible.

Lastly, whether it is in sports, school, or in daily chores around the house, celebrate your child’s accomplishments big and small.  You don’t have to compliment him or her for the sake of it, but when they have earned it, go ahead and give it.  A compliment coming from you will mean so much to your child and will build his or her confidence immensely. Sometimes it’s easy to take accomplishments for granted, or to brag to your friends but forget to tell your child how proud of him or her you are.  Your child wants to please and impress you, and you can use that to help build his or her self-confidence by praising them.

I won my first senior national points race championship when I was 20 years old.  I had one of the greatest races of my life.  I raced hard and finished the race absolutely exhausted.  By the time I recovered, I was whisked away to awards, drug testing, etc., etc.  Afterward, my very proud boyfriend, the one I married, commented that I hadn’t even seemed to enjoy it, and I didn’t even take a moment to celebrate with him.  I realized he was right.  I was so busy doing what I was supposed to, what was expected of me and focusing on what was next, that I forgot to enjoy it.  If the person winning can forget to celebrate, then it has to be even easier for parents and others to forget to share how proud they are of their child.

Confidence is a fragile thing.  Help your child build it and nourish it, so that he or she can enjoy success of all kinds. 

In my children’s book, Gracie Goat’s Big Bike Race, Gracie struggles with confidence and fears.  the book is a great way to start a conversation with your kiddo about these important things.

Erin Mirabella is a two time Olympic cyclist, children's book author and mom.  For more information on her and her children's books, please visit www.erinmirabella.com.  If you are still looking for a Christmas gift for your child, her books make a great gift and via her website you can get a personalized autographed copy.