Dealing with the rejection of being released

An Introduction…

I have decided to look at this area of children’s sport as it comes hand in hand with academy life (football at least) but does not seem to be treated with enough care and attention by the clubs that implement the procedure.

The funny thing is, it’s taken me about 8 months to feel like it’s a topic I want to deal with due to the fact that, having gone through it from the point of view of a parent, it was so emotional to go through once I wasn’t sure I wanted to re-visit it again! However I really believe that if I can help just one person get through it a little easier and shed a little light onto a rather dark and somewhat taboo subject, I will feel glad.

The cut throat nature of high level sport is very obvious, with athletes and sports people being at the height of their sport one minute and then seemingly disappearing the next. The unnerving thing is that this ‘cut throat’ approach is not only used towards adults but children too, some as young as 9 years old. My experience of this relates souly to football but I’m sure similar situations occur across other sports too. Maybe to a slightly lesser extent but still enough to leave children emotionally scarred and needing a lot of care and attention to ensure they come out the other side as well-rounded, balanced individuals who still want to take part in sport.

Depending on how the club has dealt with the child will greatly influence the effect the ‘release’ has on the child. In an ideal world the club would have had a good channel of communication with the child and family therefore the news that they are being released should not come as a complete surprise. However if this is not the case then the event will come as a shock to all involved and the child will feel a great deal of initial anger and sadness.


How to help you child understand and deal with their feelings…

It will depend on each individual child as to how often they will experience feelings of sadness, anger etc. so unfortunately there is no one set solution that will work for every child. Not what you want to hear I’m sure! However, a common time that most children will feel this way is at bedtime. This is when children are beginning to unwind and are left alone with time to think about things. The best thing to do as a parent is to let them talk and listen to them. Reassure them that it’s OK to feel angry and upset and that you are there for them. Try to focus them on the future and the positive things in their life. Distraction is key and helping them, by guiding their thoughts on to the good and positive things they have in their life to look forward to, will help ease the immediate negative emotions they are feeling.

It is important that you help the child to understand and identify what makes them happy so that they can do these things when they are feeling sad or low. This can literally be anything! Whatever that individual child feels; from reading or listening to music, to going for a run or drawing. This activity acts as a distraction to stop them dwelling on their sadness or anger over their release. If there’s one of those activities that you can do together that is even better as being with someone not only opens up the channels of communication, but shows that that person supports the child and is there for them. Obviously this is age dependent: younger children might need more help from parents than older children, but this is not to say that older children should be expected to do this independently all the time.

Giving the child lots of other activities to focus on is also important and it would be good to include involvement in other sports. Being in an academy can prevent children from having the time to take part in any other sport due to the commitment it requires. Allowing them to try other sports will help them to socialise with their peers as well as giving them the opportunity to do well at sport again. This will subsequently increase their levels  of self-confidence and self-esteem. It will also help fill the time that used to be filled with training.

In my past experience with this, keeping your child distracted and busy are the key objectives initially, as is continually reassuring them that you love them and how great they are at different things. It’s useful to note that when there is unstructured time that is when the child will do a lot of reflecting about what’s happened. A good thing to do here would be to encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling and their thoughts.

It is important to remember that time really is an amazing healer. Every child will differ in the amount of time it takes for them to move forward but they will, all you can do as a parent is to be there for them and support them in the best way you can.

There are so many areas to consider after a child has been released that I can’t do it all in one post! The other areas I will be covering at a later date will include; The effect it has on parents; how long until your child ‘feels better’; when will your child want to play football again? As well as different approaches clubs should use.

Until next time…


An update!

Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything!

What i’ve found helpful about writing these blogs is that it’s very therapeutic!! It helps you look at things from a different perspective and, in a way, helps you as an individual process events.

The areas I’ve looked at have all had some personal significance to me and I guess working through them has been very beneficial and acted as a form of closure. There are, however, topics that I would still like to cover and this is my mission for the new year!

The break has helped keep my ideas for writing fresh and relevant to the aspects of children’s sport that I feel are important to talk about.

Here’s to 2015!

Coping with negative feedback…

Unfortunately with competitive sport comes feedback and no matter how good they are, there will be times when the feedback will be critical and difficult for a child to cope with. This section is meant to give an insight into how children can feel when they are given negative feedback and to try to help people understand how damaging it can be if it is given incorrectly.

Children are naturally quite self analytical and tend to know when they have made a mistake. It’s not always necessary for a coach or a parent to dissect  performance errors in great detail straight after a game or performance as the child will know what they did well and where they made mistakes. They will probably feel quite disappointed in themselves if they have had a bad game or performance, so to then have those feelings compounded by criticism from a coach or parent will undoubtedly lead to feelings of low self esteem leading to low self confidence and probably lack of self belief. As a coach or parent it would be more beneficial to remain focused on what the child did well and only address the areas that could have been improved a few days later.

All children are different, therefore every child should be treated in a way that brings out the best in them. What works for one child could well have a negative effect on another. Nowadays, coaches tend to use the same approach for everyone, which may well explain why children who have the same physical ability as their peer group don’t always flourish and reach their perceived potential due to the universal approach used in certain settings. Some children need some form of  positive feedback during each training session as this helps build their feelings of self belief and reinforces their overall perception of themselves. These types of children thrive from positive feedback and it brings out the best in them and consequently brings out their best performance. Other children need less feedback from external sources and require only the knowledge that they are satisfied with their performance. Neither child is better then the other, they just require a different approach to bring out the best in them and coaches dealing with children should be able to adapt their approach to best suit the individual child.

A common feedback approach used today is the numerical grading system which is used to evaluate a child’s progress in their sport. I personally have seen it used in football academies, however I’m sure it’s used in other sports too. The child is given a performance score relating to how the coach feels they performed in their match. These scores are then fed back to the player in the form of a report with their average score for that period included too. Although the children are told not to compare scores with their team mates the inevitable always happens and, as this is how they are evaluated in all areas of school, they deduce that the child with the highest score is the best in the group and the child with the lowest is the worst. This form of feedback and it’s interpretation can be detrimental to a child’s level of confidence, as if they are consistently receiving lower scores than the rest of their peer group they will begin to feel they are the worst in the group. Over a long period of time these scores act as a form of reinforced failure and will result in a drop in self confidence and self belief which is then reflected in their performance on the pitch. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy so to speak. The child’s performance will merely reflect what they are being told.

This type of grading system only really benefits those children who are being consistently told that they are successful and top of their group. This is not unique to football, it is the same in any sport. Those players will have extremely high self confidence and a belief in their ability to perform at their best.

Tailoring feedback so that it is child specific would be the best approach to use with children, and keeping this feedback confidential would enable the child to process it and respond to it in the best way they could. Limiting the amount of negative comments and focusing the child on their successes would, in the long term, produce highly confident sports people who have high levels of self belief and who are motivated to take risks as they are not fearful of being negatively evaluated if they make mistakes.

A little about me…

I decided to start this blog as a way to offer some sort of advice and information to parents of children that are involved in sport. Having taken part in and coached gymnastics for many years and studied Psychology and Sport Science at Uni, I now have children of my own that are involved in sport at different levels. The mental side of sport is an area that I feel is greatly over looked, especially in children’s sport, and I feel that this is a way for me to pass on what I’ve learnt over the years to help parents that maybe feel over whelmed and are not sure how to handle the different  pressures that sport places on children.

During my coaching years and through watching the various coaching styles and approaches used with children, including my own, I have become aware of styles and approaches that bring out the best in them and those that have a negative effect. I have worked with children for over 20 years in various roles including as a nursery assistant, being a coach, a childminder, a mum and as a teaching assistant and learning support assistant in school. I feel that along the way I have come close to working out how to bring out the best in children and help them to realise their true capabilities.

I hope you enjoy my posts and find them useful