Teaching kids to set their athletics goals

With so much expertise in both playing and coaching sports, John O'Sullivan helps parents understand how to teach their children to set appropriate athletic goals.
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Teaching kids to set their athletics goals

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One of the things I talk about a lot is giving your kids ownership and control over the sports experience and people ask me how do I do that. I think really the best way to do that is through goal setting. But here's the thing, when I was a young coach, I used to do goal setting. I would set the goals for my team and then I would yell and scream at my team and push them towards my goals. And then one day, a kid said to me, "You know, coach, we don't think we're going to win the league. You're the only one who thinks we can win the league." There was this light-bulb moment for me where I said, "You know, how can I possibly coach this kids if I actually don't know what they want out of this experience?" Then I started doing goal setting with my teams and I would ask them to list three individual goals and three goals they had for the team. But then here's the key thing, before I would collect those goals, I would ask them to go home and I would ask their parents to list three individual goals for their son or daughter and three individual goals for their kid's team independently of their kids and then sit down around the kitchen table and compare goals. Because so often parents goal showed their kids in sports and the kids goals or at complete opposite ends to the spectrum. If I'd say there is one thing that made more kids quit was that their goals and their parent's sporting goals were totally incompatible. One wanted them to play college sport in Stanford and the other one didn't even want to play in high school. I really think that as parents if we can help our kids set goals and we can look at what their goals are and accept their goals for sports, then what we are able to do is we are able to push them towards their goals and not our own goals. One of my favourite sports psychologist, his name is Dr. Jim Taylor. He says, "Kids are creatures of inertia." They tend to stay at rest until we put them in motion and then they tend to stay in motion." It's our job as parents to push our kids, but if we push them towards their goals, they are far more likely to pursue them than if all we're doing is pushing and prodding and screaming and yelling at them to try to achieve our goals for them.

With so much expertise in both playing and coaching sports, John O'Sullivan helps parents understand how to teach their children to set appropriate athletic goals.

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John O'Sullivan

Founder of Changing The Game Project

John O’Sullivan founded the Changing the Game Project in 2012 in order to help parents, coaches and youth sports organizations create a more child-centered sports experience for our young athletes. John is a former collegiate and professional player, and worked for 20 years on the youth, high school and college level as a coach and club Technical Director. He holds a USSF A License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, and a US Youth Soccer National License. His blog is now one of the most popular youth sports websites in the US, and he has been a featured presenter at TEDx Bend Oregon, IMG Academy, and this week at the NSCAA Convention. The Changing the Game Project provides live and online parent and coaching education workshops, webinars, and consulting services.

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