How To Instill Confidence In Kids
It was the cold dead of winter in South Jersey but the high school gymnasium was sweltering. I stepped onto the basketball court as a senior to warm up. And I was in the zone. I couldn’t miss.
Around the 10th swish I heard a gruff voice from the sideline, “Why don’t you do it in the game?”
It was the voice of my basketball coach’s father. The old curmudgeon came to every game and always sat in the front row. He knew I rarely shot the ball. He knew that when I finally mustered the courage to take a shot because I was wide open and no one on the other team seemed to care if I had the ball, I’d shoot an airball.
He knew the answer to his question.
I had zero confidence.
But what I did have was work ethic. I worked harder than anyone on my team. You’d think with all the hours I put into dribbling on my front step, all the hours I put into taking shot after shot on the basketball net in my backyard, all the hours I put into every summer practice and camp, I’d develop confidence.
But I never did. Instead, I became paralyzed by my own fear that I would mess up and disappoint everyone.
Over the weekend I attended the NCAA Division I Field Hockey semifinals. I was in awe of every player on that field, but most of all, Erin Matson.
Matson is a junior for the University of North Carolina and has led the team to a 65-1 overall record for the past three seasons. Her skill is unmatched. When Matson gets the ball you can feel that something magical is about to happen. She’s the Michael Jordan of field hockey.
I had the pleasure of witnessing her Dad, Brian, at the game. He cheered from the sidelines, “Way to go, Honey!” and revved up the entire UNC crowd by leading the chant, “Tar!” To which all the UNC fans responded, “Heels!”
Brian drove six hours down from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, and was going to turn around and drive six hours back up to PA that night. And then if UNC won (which they did, 3-0) he would drive back down in two days for the final.
And he seemed genuinely thrilled about it.
It reminded me of Kobe Bryant’s father, who always told Kobe, “Whether you score or 0 or 60, I love you." This gave Kobe the stability and confidence to know it was okay to fail because he knew he was going to be loved no matter what.
“That doesn’t just mean basketball. That means anything in life. That means writing, that means being an entrepreneur, that means having the confidence to go for it. And I’ve seen too many parents do the exact opposite. It terrifies children. And children become paralyzed by their own fear because they don’t have that security blanket of love and comfort.”
Perhaps there’s a fear that if you show too much love or support your child will get cocky, entitled, lazy. That she won’t work hard.
But the best way to instill confidence is not by pushing your kids to be better. The best way to instill confidence is to love them and support them no matter what.
Here’s a 30-second clip of Matson scoring the OT game-winner in the final on Sunday, then clambering over stadium seats to reach her Dad:
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