As a Master Instructor, I get the privilege of working with junior players of all ability levels. Some are among the best in the world and many are striving to become the best they can be.
Mental coaching for junior player is perhaps the most rewarding work I do. Teaching a young player how to develop a positive mindset and watching them grow in both ability and confidence is great! I not only help them become better players, but it will also help them in school and other sports.
COACHING FOR YOUNG PLAYERS
The feedback a junior receives from parents and others heavily influences them. I’ve seen first hand how this can help or hinder, their development. Here are some of my insights from working with juniors and their parents and some suggestions for creating a healthy environment for the development of their game.
BEGIN WITH POSITIVES
After the completion of any match,when you start teaching it’s important to start with the positives and then move onto the areas of improvement. If you’d like your junior to think more positively when they’re on the table, then you need to provide an example by doing this yourself. All my students fill out a “Rate Yourself” chart after each match. Students reflect on many positive things but also address things they could have done better. For the things that could have gone better, it’s important for the parent to remind the child that these are things they can work on during practice.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE RESULTS
The results a junior gets will never be as important as what they are learning.
When a parent reviews a junior’s performance, it’s important to reward the things they did that led to end result. By this, I mean the process (decision making, pre-shot routine, attitude). You wouldn’t want a junior to be thinking about the consequences of every shot during the match, so when reviewing their performance, the focus needs to be on the process and how they dealt with the challenges they faced.
When juniors are praised for process and effort (which includes how hard they’ve been practicing), they will be inclined to work harder than those who are told they are naturally talented. If juniors are taught that any skill can be learned with hard work, it will encourage more persistence, more effort and lead to more tournament victories.
DO NOT COMPARE THEM TO OTHER PLAYERS
One of the traps that juniors fall into is thinking about how good they are compared to other players. This can cause them to start playing “Ego pool”, instead of focusing on the process. All too often there’s more value placed on “looking good”, instead of focusing on what they can truly learn.
Struggling should not be looked at as a negative. When juniors work to overcome challenges they become stronger. Parents shouldn’t allow juniors to fear mistakes; rather, they should be taught that it is an important part of the learning process.
KEEP EMOTIONS OUT OF IT
Finally, juniors are always seeking approval from their parents. They care deeply about what their parents think of them and the emotional response they receive. For this reason, juniors are generally very good at being able to determine how their parents are feeling. Parents usually show it on their faces or with their body language.
I’ve worked with plenty of juniors who, through this experience, ask their parents to not watch them compete. The relief of not worrying about how their play makes their dad or mom feel is very real. The lesson here is to be careful about how emotional you become and try to remain neutral.
I hope this article provides you some helpful pointers on how to help a child play a better game of pool. If you’d like further guidance, feel free to visit www.poolteacher.comor give me a call to set up a free consultation.
Author: Anthony Beeler Anthony Beeler is an instructional columnist for Pool and Billiard Magazine and On the Break News. He is the owner and founder of Virtual Billiard Academy and the Angles as a Second Language Course. He is a player representative for McDermott Custom Cues and is a four time Kentucky State 9-Ball Champion. In addition, he also won the 2013 BCAPL National 9-Ball Championship and has a total of six top 25 national finishes to his credit. Editor: Chris Freeman
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