Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

5 Confidence and emotions in teenagers

As you have seen, teenagers often compare themselves to their peers and their identity is often uncertain and evolving. Listen to this example of teenager Rachel, her younger brother Oliver and their mother talking about the ups and downs of teenage life when you start secondary school.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: In secondary school we have a lot more responsibility
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Transcript: In secondary school we have a lot more responsibility

At secondary school I think the traits that have helped me get through it are probably a good sense of humour, determination and confidence because without those things you would have just been really sad.
In our old schools we didn’t have much responsibility, but now, secondary school, we’ve got a lot more. We’ve got to pack our books and make sure we’ve got them, and homework, there’s a lot more of it. And we’ve got to make sure it’s there. And also the teachers trust us to do these things.
I think that good characteristics will help you, getting further in life because once I went for a country trial with netball and to be in counties you need to be really determined and confident because you need to be one of the best.
She’s had both disappointments and successes in sport. And on both occasions she’s dealt with them admirably really, with the disappointment she’s looked back, laughed about it, moved on. Tried not to dwell on it and in the successes when perhaps some of her friends haven’t been as successful she’s dealt with that with humility and been mature. I think that as a parent we don’t necessarily intend to teach our children good character, however teaching your child how to behave, how to interact with others, how to show respect, I think those are all the useful tools that as a parent you should equip your child with because in the academic world there is always the chance that the child might not achieve perhaps what they want to achieve. But if they’ve got some of the character skills then those can help them find an alternative and be equally happy in life.
End transcript: In secondary school we have a lot more responsibility
In secondary school we have a lot more responsibility
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This family talked about drawing on determination, humour and confidence in coping with the ups and downs in education, sport and life.

In this next activity, Bradley Busch explains what his main topics are when working with teenagers in sport: confidence features strongly. Keep the voices of Rachel and Oliver in mind as you do the activity.

Activity 3 Bradley Busch’s top teenage topics in sport

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

In this video, Bradley Busch describes the two most common topics he is asked to address with teenagers in sport. Summarise the two main points he makes, including the practical guidance he gives.

Download this video clip.Video player: Interview with Bradley Busch (Part 2)
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Transcript: Interview with Bradley Busch (Part 2)

Bradley, when you’re working in sport with teenagers, what are the two topics that they most commonly ask for?
Well, the two main areas that most athletes come to us asking to get better is, one, about improving their confidence, and, two, managing their nerves. The first, improving their confidence, one thing that we know the brain craves is certainty. But when you look at what a lot of people think about before an event, they’ll often focus on things that they can't change or things that they can only influence, such as the crowd, the referee, their opponents, what the score might be.
We help them identify what they can control and focus on those things. And that typically looks like focusing on their effort, focus on executing their game plan, focusing on being the best teammate they possibly can be. And by focusing on the things you can control, you give yourself more certainty and, as such, perform with more confidence.
So, when you have a group in front of you, what specifically do you ask them to do, to help with confidence?
Well, the first thing we get teenagers to do is to try to improve their self-awareness. We get them to write down what it is they're focused on in the build-up to a match. Once they’ve got that list written down, we can then help them identify which are the things they can control, which are the things they can influence, and which are the things they can’t change. That’s usually the first step to really improving their confidence.
Are there any other little techniques or strategies that you guide them towards?
Yes. A big part of how confident you feel comes from how you talk to yourself. We help people identify their negative thoughts and replace them with positive, helpful, and energised language, so that they can go out feeling as confident as possible.
The second most common area that we work on with athletes is helping them improve their emotional control, managing their nerves or frustration. Because, when you think about it, the difference between nerves and excitement, in terms of what happens to your body, is very small. Both involve a fast heart rate. Both involve lots of adrenalin, lots of butterflies, and excess energy.
The biggest difference between nerves and excitement often isn’t what happens to your body, it’s what’s going through your brain. And we help people focus on making it an opportunity not a threat. Sometimes I think students and teenagers and athletes are so worried about what other people are saying about them, they have this worry that people are judging them the whole time. And, as such, it makes them more stressed and more nervous and increases their fear of failure.
But, by helping them focus on executing their routine, by helping them do the best that they can do and focus on performing to their abilities, and not so much what other people might say about them, helps them improve their nerves.
Bradley, thank you so much.
Thank you very much. Been a pleasure.
End transcript: Interview with Bradley Busch (Part 2)
Interview with Bradley Busch (Part 2)
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Confidence frequently features in Bradley Busch’s dialogue with teenagers in sport, in a similar way to how Rachel mentioned this in the family audio clip. Whilst adults have often heard about the advice of focusing on controlling the controllable features of performance, this is a new concept for many teenagers and one he says they find particularly useful.

The other common topic is controlling emotions (e.g. nerves or frustrations) in sport. He explained how he encourages people to think about situations as less threatening and framing them as opportunities. This includes encouraging people to have less regard for what other people might think about them and to focus on their own competition routine and performance.

You will further explore psychology, confidence and emotions in Sessions 5 and 6.

Working with young people can be very rewarding due to their variety and rapid progress. Those experienced with guiding teenagers know that they can often call on a powerful tool to help them: the inspirational effect of someone being a model for what is possible. It is this you turn to next.


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