Many fall sports are starting up again as school approaches. Personally, I am coaching a couple of 10 and 11 year old boy’s soccer teams (one reason I haven’t posted in a while). It’s a lot a fun to get out there and act like a kid again and pass on some experiences that I have been lucky enough to collect over the years.
In preparation for this year’s season, I read a book by Jim Thompson, called The Double Goal Coach’. The book is about keeping the goal of teaching kids life lessons through sports, first, while at the same time having the goal of trying to win games. I highly recommend this book to anyone who either coaches youth sports or has a child in sports.
The Emotional Tank
One concept in the book that I want to focus on today is what Jim calls, the Emotional Tank’, or E-Tank. It relates very well to the EQ, or emotional intelligence, that I have written about in past posts. But where the EQ is an individual’s ability to control their emotions on a regular basis, the E-Tank refers to any given point in time and how an individual, in this case a young athlete, is feeling about themselves.
When an athlete has a full E-Tank, they are feeling good and are able to rebound from mistakes. They are also able to take a little constructive criticism as it’s meant to help them improve. If their E-Tank is empty then they will have difficulty recovering from their mistakes and be unable to see the value in coaching points that they might hear.
It’s our job, as coaches to try and boost our players E-Tanks for a couple of reasons: first, for their own benefit as a player and an individual; and second, for the team’s benefit because they will play better and improve more in practice.
Many studies in sports psychology conclude that the ideal ratio of positive comments and encouragement to critical corrections is about 5 to 1 – Meaning five acknowledgments of good play for every correction. That may seem like a lot but it’s what seems to work. The magic ratio will be different for different kids but it must be weighted toward the positive side.
Parents are in Control
But it’s not only us coaches that need to work on our young athletes E-tank. The experiences they get at home, especially right before practice have a huge effect. If you are a parent of an athlete, you can help your kid’s coach and his team dramatically by trying to fill up their tank before bringing them to practice.
In my first couple of practices, most of the kids seemed excited to get back into the season and showed up with a full E-tank. However, there are always going to be a couple of kids that aren’t having the best day and need a little extra encouragement.
When I noticed this, I tried out Jim’s techniques of 5 positive comments to every 1 correction and it really worked. I was able to get a couple of kids who didn’t seem to be that into it to turn it around and pick up the effort.
I plan to pay close attention to the E-tanks of my players at each practice and do what I can to keep them full. But to really boost a kids EQ requires filling up their E-tank all the time with all the stuff that I’ve discussed in previous posts nutrition, sleep, physical activity (more than just twice a week at practice) and encouraging them to believe in themselves.
Parents have far more influence on their child’s performance on the athletic field than most realize. Focus on regularly filling your young athletes E-tank and you will notice a big improvement in their performance on and off the field.
Copyright (c) 2007 The Brain Code LLC