Dads of Teens: Growing Your Child’s Self-Confidence Through Sports

ages & stages treeSelf-confidence, or the sense of self-worth, empowers children in life, whether at school or at play, and is a good attribute to inculcate in your child early on.

A confident person constantly challenges and develops himself, while one who lacks it dwells on stagnant ground and might even face psychological barriers such as anxiety or negative self-talk, affecting performance.

As dads, our role would be to assist our children in building up their self-confidence, as it becomes a life-long gift we leave for them.

Confidence Empowers

A case in point of confidence and of overcoming negative self-talk is found in the story of how Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile running record.

In the 1950’s, athletes believed that it was physiologically impossible to complete a mile within the four-minute mark despite several close shaves. That is, except Bannister, who believed that with the right conditions, “the four-minute mile was not out of reach”. This belief later won him a place in history for shattering the record, running the first recorded mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

Interestingly, within the next few years, several more runners were then able to beat this “impossible” feat – even those who previously thought this feat insurmountable.

Did they train harder now, or were they less talented then? No, it was the belief that the feat could be done that empowered them!

A Transferable Skill

Even beyond the playing field, the life skill of self-confidence gained from playing a sport can be translated into improved academic performance and better relationships with friends and family.

Self-confidence removes feelings of anxiety that hinder concentration, which in turn undermine success. It is no secret that the ability to focus is essential in many aspects of modern life, including in academic performance. Confident children are also more predisposed to challenging themselves and stretching their potential.

Growing Confidence Through Sports

The clear demonstration of ability, however small, whether through dribbling a ball or scoring a goal, awards confidence to the player. And unlike academic work or the arts, sports are usually played in groups, which provide social support from teammates, family, friends and even fans.

On top of this, the vicarious experience of watching other athletes excel also helps kids to build up a mental imagery of success.

Physical activity helps kids to feel good about their body and image. Many would advise one to dress for success; in the same vein, when vitality is projected, you have won half the battle in life.

Jimmy Tan, 53, sent his son for Taekwondo classes because the young one often felt insecure about his size – so much so that his peers were frightening him just for fun.

“More than learning just self-defense, the confidence that he later exudes through winning competitions and achieving various levels in the martial arts acted as a defense mechanism,” said Mr Tan. “Even the older and bigger-sized boys left him alone, and he appeared to be more vocal in class too.”

Allen Tan, 30, a rock climbing coach agrees: “On top of getting over the fear of heights, the young climbers overcome physical obstacles and usually beyond where they originally think they may go. For this, they are rewarded with confidence, especially when there are other kids cheering them on as they attain greater heights both mentally and physically.”

Preparing Your Child

1) Find the right sport


Bring up the possibility of being involved in a sport regularly with your child. Let him or her suggest as well as decide which ones to try out before settling on one. It is important to find the right sport – one that engages and excites your child.

With that, motivation, commitment and personal development will naturally follow.

2) Gear up.

Getting in the right gear reduces the risk of any outdoor or sporting activity, and some activities require the use of uniforms or special equipment as well. Research well before bringing your child for a trial; you will want to be comfortable with the costs involved, especially as your child advances in the sport and becomes psychologically committed to it.

Preparing Yourself

1) Have realistic expectations


Upon investing time and effort shuttling your kids to and fro the training venues as well as paying hard-earned cash for it, it is normal to want to harness the most out of the sport. However, one common pitfall that parents are prone to is having unrealistic expectations and imposing them on their child.

Consider your child’s age and training period instead of expecting him or her to play like a pro just a month into a new sport.

2) Reward both effort and outcome.

Catch your child doing the right thing and give sincere praises for both effort and outcome. By appreciating your child’s contribution to the team, his or her sense of self-worth will increase. And even when a game is lost, emphasize on working as a team and focus on points to improve on the next time.

However, be sure to offer sincere praises. Excessive encouragement is ineffective and will only destroy your credibility while appropriate praise sends positive signals of support and recognition to the child.

3) Create a safe and supportive environment.

As much as possible, ban negative actions on the playing field such as taunting and ridiculing. Instead, focus on areas of improvement and portray mistakes as building blocks towards eventual success.

4) Be enthusiastic!

Demonstrate your support for your child whether or not the sport he or she attempts is competitive or not. After all, enthusiasm is contagious – and your interest in her enjoyment and performance is an important vote of confidence for your child!


  1. Jones, M.I., Dunn, J.G.H., Holt, N.L., Sullivan, P.J., & Bloom, G.A. (2011). Exploring the ‘5Cs’ of Positive Youth Development in Sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 34 (3), 250-267.
  2. Kremer-Sadlik, T., & Kim, J. L. (2007). Lessons from Sport: Children’s Socialization to Values Through Family Interaction During Sports Activities. Discourse Society 18, 35-52.
  3. Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D. (2007). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (4th Ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 27-11-2011.


Categories: 5 Dads of Teens, Ages and Stages

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