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The AS&K Sports MSD


Resources for Parents





The success of an athlete depends upon physical skills and conditioning and the right mentality. What does "right mentality" mean? To a sport psychologist, it means developing and using a set of mental skills that enable an athlete to get the most out of their physical skills. These mental skills will also help your athlete in off-the-field situations. As a parent you can help your athlete develop his/her mental skills by educating him/her about what they are and why they're important. You can also teach good mental skills by being a role-model for them. Below are some tips you can use to help you teach your athlete about mental skills.



How much Effort does your athlete make? How high was his/her Effort score on the MSA? In which situations was Effort high and in which situations was it low?

High levels of Effort cannot be sustained in an athlete who does not genuinely value and enjoy success in the sport. Discuss with your athlete how enjoyable and important are participation and achieving the highest level of mastery possible.

  1. Be sure that your athlete’s judgments of the importance of success in the sport are not actually a reflection of your judgment of importance.
  2. You can increase the level of effort your athlete makes by improving their mental skills especially those related to goals (Goal Setting, Goal Implementation, and Mastery Approach) and self-concept (Task Confidence, Self-Worth, and Personal Control).


Do I express confidence in my athlete? Am I Open to Feedback about my role as a parent? Do I encourage my son/daughter to seek feedback from many different sources?

  1. Be a role-model. Be open to feedback yourself. Ask your athlete for feedback about your role in their athletic pursuits. For example, ask in what ways your participation helpful or not helpful.
  2. Focus feedback on behavior, not the person (see Self-Worth). Instead of saying, “You are …,” say, “Your behavior was …” This approach focuses on development and support, it avoids a sense of personal criticism.


How well does your athlete implement goals? Is his or her Goal Implementation MSA score high or low? What are your athlete’s Goal Implementation BITEs?

  1. When it is necessary to set less challenging goals because a goal is not being met, be sure your athlete recognizes that the less challenging goals are really sub-goals on the path to achieving the original more challenging goal. Avoid negative comments and BITEs about your athlete’s character, innate ability, or self-worth.
  2. When obstacles occur, assist your athlete with the implementation of the plan established to overcome the obstacle. Reinforce the value of goal implementation planning, comment positively on their ability to continue making progress toward their goal, despite the obstacle (Personal Control).


How well does your athlete set goals? Is his or her Goal Setting MSA score high or low? What are your athlete’s Goal Setting BITEs?

  1. Recognize and even reward your athlete for meeting his or her short-term sub-goals. Recognition is a surprisingly strong “reward” that a parent can provide.
  2. Help your athlete focus on short-term goals and their alignment with longer term goal(s) by discussing them and ensuring he/she understands and believes in his or her short and long-term goals.



Does your athlete have strong Personal Control? Is his or her Personal Control MSA score high or low? In what situations is the score high and in what situations is it low? How are your athlete’s Personal Control BITEs different in the different situations, if at all?

  1. Working with your athlete’s cooperation and consent, make a list of your athlete’s Personal Control BITEs especially those that occur in the face of frustrations, obstacles, and setbacks. Identify which ones are positive and helpful for building a sense of personal control over events and which are not helpful.
  2. Note tendencies in your athlete to diminish the credit she/he deserves for success. Find opportunities to discuss when your athlete performed well, made a good play, performed well in the clutch, etc. Describe specific actions, behaviors, and reasons (BITEs) why your athlete was responsible for his/her own success. Ask your athlete to describe in his/her own words what he/she did well that caused their success. If you have videos of your athlete they can be used effectively in this manner. The discussion must be sincere, accurate, and believable to you and your athlete.


Does your athlete have strong Leadership skills? Is his or her Leadership MSA score high or low? In what situations is the score high and in what situations is it low? Identify where Leadership scores are high and low. The more situations in which your athlete scores well the more she/he is a leader.

  1. If your athlete is in a leadership role, especially help them develop Goal Setting, Goal Implementation, and Open to Feedback skills. Leaders set and implement team goals and hold others accountable for achieving them by providing constructive feedback.
  2. Consider your own leadership skills as a parent. Are you a role-model for the mental skills? Are you strong in Goal Setting, Goal Implementation, and Open to Feedback? Do you exhibit these mental skills? Do you encourage and develop them in your athlete(s) by providing constructive feedback on the mental skills?


What motivates your athlete to improve his or her skills? What motivates your athlete to learn more about their knowledge and strategy about the game? Do you or your athlete tend to compare your athlete's performance to that of his or her teammates?

  1. When speaking with your athlete use specific examples and factual information about improvements or lack of improvement in behavior compared to earlier examples. Include the athlete in the selection and identification of examples and factual information.
  2. Discuss your athlete’s BITEs after games and competitions. He or she may be appraising or evaluating his or her performance on what others will say about his or her performance, especially what you as the parent will say or think.


How does your athlete monitor his or her improvement and progress? What are your athlete's BITEs after achieving a goal? After failing to achieve a goal?

  1. Gather factual evidence (statistics and examples from actual performances) to support your athlete’s statements of satisfaction with their performance.
  2. Express your satisfaction with your athlete’s progress toward achieving short and long-term goals. Use concrete examples of the success.


In which areas does my athlete have high Self-Worth? How can I achieve the proper balance of praise and criticism?

  1. Self-worth is enhanced by creating a positive atmosphere during practice and games and providing positive support to your athlete (on and off the field), especially in times of setbacks.
  2. When criticizing behavior or performance that requires improvement, criticize the behavior and not the athlete. For example, instead of saying, “Annie, you’re a sore sport when you refuse to talk to anyone after making a mistake” say, “Annie, refusing to talk to anyone after making a mistake increases the bad feelings and can offend your friends. Remember last week in the same situation you succeeded – you can succeed again next time.”


In which areas does my athlete have high Task Confidence? How can I model Task Confidence positively?

  1. Recognize skills and situations where your son or daughter has a high level of task confidence (e.g., math skills or Wii bowling). Help your son or daughter become self-aware of his/her task confidence by discussing it (see Open to Feedback). Reinforce and describe the skill/task confidence he/she experiences while performing successfully, expectation of success, enjoyment, and absence of anxiety.
  2. When your son or daughter experience a setback for a skill/task being developed, be aware of negative thinking and the potential for him/her to build failure expectations. Remind your son or daughter of successes of the past and focus on expectations of success in the future.