How To Help Your Child Balance Team Expectations In Competition

“Hit Zero! No deductions! Nothing comes down! If you are not 1st, you’re last!” Sound familiar? Competitions are filled with expectations and goals that leave zero room for error. Well-meaning coaches and teammates everywhere are pushing and encouraging their teams to strive for excellence and uphold the team’s reputation but there is one fundamental challenge… perfection doesn’t exist.


Think about how your child behaves leading up to performances. Are they filled with fear and nerves, terrified to mess up and let their team down or are they excited, ready to perform their best and have fun with their friends? Balancing expectations and perfectionist ideals of teams with helpful goals your child can use to perform their best is the secret to trading pre-competition anxiety with excitement and confidence!


In this post, I will share 3 tips to prepare you for helping your child balance their team’s need to win with goals that will allow them to compete with less stress, excited to perform their best without fear of rejection.

How To Help Your Child Balance Team Expectations In Competition

#1 Understand who is doing the talking

Let’s talk about how your child thinks about their performance as being good or bad. Think back to the conversation you had after their last good practice. Was it good because they made progress, achieved skills, and enjoyed time playing the sport they loved, or was it good because nothing bad happened? Think about that for a moment… It is becoming the norm to base our good and bad days on things that either did or didn’t go wrong. The standard is now set to perfect which is impossible to live up to every single day. This knowledge allows your child to see behind the words and understand it is the sport-created perfectionism talking. At the end of the day, everyone just wants what is best for themselves, their coaches, athletes, and their teams. Your child does not have to accept the expectations of others as their truth and can instead pick more helpful ways of thinking that allow room for growth and confidence to thrive.

#2 Personalize the team goal by breaking it down

Just last week I was coaching one of my Summit bound competition cheerleading athletes through balancing perfectionism and expectations of others in competition. My goal was to help her process the team goal in a specific way so she could be 100% all-in with the team’s mission in a way that was helpful for her to perform her best. Here is a sneak peek into our conversation.

MP: Let’s start with the team goal of “no deductions, nothing comes down!”. So if you do not want deductions and nothing to fall, what do you want?”

Athlete: To hit everything clean.”

MP: What helps you have the best chance of hitting everything clean?

Athlete: Sqeezing tight and not rushing.

MP: So, if you do not want to rush what do you want to do?”

Athlete: “Be patient”.

MP: So what I am hearing is that when you hear the team goal you understand the purpose is to encourage you to do your best which means you will focus on “stay tight and be patient”!

Athlete: Yes! That is it!

What could this perspective shift do for your child to turn those pre-competition nerves into confidence and excitement?

#3 Let's be logical

You are at a competition, the music ends and everyone begins to make their way down the stage with tears in their eyes. The coach seems mad, the parents are upset and comforting their babies, and you hear the heart-breaking whispers of “It is all my fault!” Have you ever been there or at least experienced some version of this? Competition is supposed to be a time where your child can have fun with their teammates showing off all of their hard work but instead, they are terrified of making mistakes and letting everyone down. Whether it was a fall, a missed skill, or simply a strange movement they assume they took something away from their teammates. In some cases, there are even teammates that confirm their worst fears with comments and questions about the mistake. 

What is the truth? ONE PERSON CAN NOT MAKE OR BREAK A PERFORMANCE. If they took some time to write down all of the things they did well instead of focusing on the 1 mishap, the truth would be clear. Mistakes are ok and happen to the best of the best. Even the most practiced, talented athletes and teams make mistakes and it is ok. If you ever find yourself in this situation, think of it as a learning opportunity for your child to learn grace, compassion, and the truth that mistakes happen, no one is perfect, and that is ok

There you have it! Keep these ideas in your back pocket to use as you help your child mentally prepare for their next performance. With this knowledge, you will be able to confidently navigate through the noise and help your child see a new way of thinking that will help them release their nerves and get them excited about competing again. Do you wish your child had more positive energy while competing? I am here to support you both! Grab my free Competition Energy Audit Guide by clicking here.

Hi, I am Mandy Patterson, Certified MGCP, and the Founder and Head Mental Performance Coach at MANDY PATTERSON COACHING. I help athletes push past mental blocks and fears so they can rediscover their passion, pursue their goals, and ultimately get back to thriving in the sport they love. 

I have experienced the frustration of putting in the time, energy, and money into physical abilities only to get to a place where my mind gets in the way. I figured out how to push through every time but it was at a cost of time, money, and confidence. My desire is to help others get through their mental blocks faster. 

If your child is dealing with a mental block in their skills, I want to support you with resources and daily encouragement! Join my FREE private Facebook Group for sports parents, RAISING CONFIDENT ATHLETES by clicking here

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