We have all experienced pressure. A person would be lying if they said they hadn’t.
If you’ve ever watched a small child learning to do something for the first time, often they will give it a go, then when they can’t work out how to do it, get angry. They are angry at themselves because already they have set high expectations for themselves that they should be able to do it.
That whole idea is false of course, because how on earth can they know how to do that particular thing when it is something they are learning.
The older they get the more pressure children put on themselves. I have to be perfect at school and get the best grades, for every class.
I have to be able to shoot the puck and score every time.
Notice they think that life is made up of the words ‘every’ and ‘should’.
Talk about putting pressure on yourself. You can’t possibly do something right every time. And whatever they should do may be great advice for them and yet it is not always sound.
Notice too that I haven’t even talked about adding in what goes on in their head when they think about their coach, you, their peers, their siblings, other family members like their Grandparents.
Think back to when you were a child growing up.
How much pressure did you put on yourself? And how often did you lay the pressure on? I’m guessing it was often.
As an adult we tend to forget about our self-imposed pressure because we think we have so much other pressure put on us from the outside world.
I’ve got news for you. No one can put pressure on your accept yourself. You are the one laying it all on, and thick.
Which is why it helps to understand this so you can talk to your child about this very issue.
Have a conversation about where they are thinking they should do something right every time.
It may go something like this.
You: “Hey, I notice you practising your slap shot. You looked like you were doing a great job. You are getting more accurate and scoring more goals.”
Your child: “Yeah, but I’m still not getting them all in.”
Notice where they are thinking they should get every shot in.
You: “It takes a lot of practice to master something. 10,000 hours you know. That’s quite a long time. Even those great hockey players that make it look so easy to have made that shot many thousands of times. So, go easy on yourself and have fun.”
“Have fun making the shot. Maybe see if you can make one in twenty a scoring shot. That could be your goal this week.”
Listen to their response and notice if they come back with a ‘Yeah but….” Talk to the but comment. It will usually be the reason they think they can’t do what you’ve suggested.
Setting a goal isn’t about putting more pressure on them. It is actually about having them step back and not be so focused on having to get what they are doing right. And right all the time.
You may have noticed words that I have made bold in this post. These thoughts are the ones that create the pressure that we feel. We feel it because we impose it on ourselves by thinking that we must do things perfectly the first time or do it right all the time.
We set exceedingly high expectations in our own minds as to what we must achieve and most of the times these expectations are completely unrealistic. We haven’t realized that yet, and I am speaking from years of experience here and a lot of inner work getting to understand how my thinking creates my world.
If you are able to support your child to lower their expectations and make them more realistic. To not think that must, should, every are words that they have to believe.
What if it was okay to only score the perfect wrist shot one in twenty times?
What if it was okay to practise one hour a day, two days a week?
What if they didn’t have to win every game and learning something new each game was the goal?
It is about planting the seed of possibility rather than everything needing to be certain.
Then they will have fun and enjoy what they are doing rather than feeling pressure to perform all the time.
As a side note, I listen to the Colorado Avalanche players in interviews talking about having fun all the time. If that’s how professional NHL players approach their game isn’t it okay for your child to too?
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.