5 Ways to Give Your Kids Confidence (Without Becoming an Ogre or Doormat)


photo credit: lawndart via photopin cc
photo credit: lawndart via photopin cc


There’s this delicate balance we want to establish in our kids. No, I don’t mean popular in school, without living like a starlet.

Or being the star of the team, without regard to the concept of team.

Or brilliantly smart, without knowing when to take time from the books and be a kid.

Come to think of it, we want those things, too. But that’s not the purpose of this particular blog.

There are three other things we want to instill in our kids, at some point between the moment we cut the umbilical cord to when we take the training wheels off the bike for the first time to helping to pull their jeep out of a lake after college homecoming (what?).

I want my girls to feel …

Young Boy in Confident Pose - Centro Habana - Havana - Cuba

Confident, but not entitled.

Self-assured, but not self-centered.

Happy in their skin, but not oblivious to the world around them.

It’s like trying to balance an egg on one end on Arbor Day (or is that Winter Solstice? I forget.

The generations before were just as perplexed, from the era of Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard to Kids Are Just Little People to Let’s Idolize Our Child With Bumper Stickers Declaring Their Academic Brilliance, Window Stickers With Their Jersey Number, and Cost Of Private Lessons In Anything They Choose To Do Recreationally.

What is right?

There’s more validity in action than theory, as parents know.

These are a handful I try to put into action. The less you speak, and the more you do, the better. I even asked the kids for their input on this. After their initial suggestion that I instill confidence by buying them i-Pod touches were squashed like an Eva Longoria romance, we got down to business.

1. Hype it up, with good stuff

athletes,horse races,horseback riding,horseracing,jockeys,men,persons,riding crops

Grace told the world (or at least her first-grade class) daddy yells at her during soccer. No, not spittle-spewing, vein-popping, profanity-laced discourse, but something really simple: “Go Grace, go!” My sideline sounds are mostly confined to prodding the kid bringing up the rear.

I won’t scream “reverse field!”, “get to space!” or “Pass! Shoot!”; but, kind of like the horse crop on the flank, just a little prodding to get the lead out.

This happens to work, not as effectively, to finish school projects before bedtime (at which time they become parent projects. Definitely thoughts for another blog).

2. Pay attention. Always. Completely.


If your nose is still in your Louis L’Amour novel while she’s telling you about the salamander she found in her school lunch, she’s gonna be bitter. That wacky play he’s dreamed up for the next soccer game that involved sliced lemon and a hedgehog? Take notice.

When they ask to help mush up the hamburger meat for dinner, tell them to wash their hands first, then let them get messy with you.

Honestly, when there’s these sweet familiar brown eyes fixed on you, how can you look anywhere else? I can’t confirm this scientifically, but I feel like if I listen to them, they’ll listen to me.

3. Get behind them – in a real way

brass instruments,entertainment,music,saxophones,valves,leisure,arts,tools

Drive the distance to be at the game. Switch shifts. Praise the effort, not the result. Make sure she has cleats that don’t pinch her toes. A saxophone that the b flat doesn’t sound just like a C. Think about it: If you feel someone cares about what you do, doesn’t it make you want to do it better?

4. Shoot straight

goals,nets,soccer balls,sports,equipment,scores

Not even a kid wants blown smoke. If it wasn’t her best game in goal, no need to call her Swiss cheese and an embarrassment to her heritage, but don’t also tell her she’s the next Hope Solo. “Those were great opportunities you created to shoot today,” you could say, “and I think with a left-footed shot, you might have ended up with a hat trick.”

Now, you can both work on that left foot together.

Beats the heck out of telling her you thought you saw the other team’s goalie driving herself to their U-12 match.

5. Love, Love, Love.

Soccer Ball Cake (2)

I had a goalkeeper who let in the tying goal with 10 seconds left, then missed a penalty shot, and gave up with winning PK. Lots to swallow in the span of 3 minutes, 37 seconds when you’re 10 years old and away from home.

She got hugs as she cried on the field afterward; no words would have done it justice. I’m talking from not only her parents and coach, but parents of other players. We all couldn’t help but think of our own kid in that very spot.

It’s really what makes us want to look into their eyes and root for them and listen to their ideas and watch their mouths move and eyes light up and just get as close to them as you possibly can, because they’re like a really, really awesome little version of you before you knew anything about mortgages and failing transmissions and downsizing.

Plus, love’s the easy part, right?

The bottom line: When it comes to kicking butt, I bring up the rear

photo credit: leg0fenris via photopin cc
photo credit: leg0fenris via photopin cc

I can’t handle success.

I fumble / mishandle / botch / butcher / sabotage / ruin / boot / flounder / flub / mar / mishandle / mismanage and muck up any good fortune I stumble upon on an athletic field.

How I’ve managed to win a handful of soccer tournaments and not strangle myself in the goal net, only St. Pele knows.

This applies to me, individually, on a field of play. It seems to go to my head, perhaps. Or my butt.

I’ll explain.

But first, let’s recap:

I’m the fourth-grader who took a whole Actifed for allergy relief before a rec basketball game, and, in my hyper cloud, lit up the scoreboard like Wilt Chamberlain; then, in my next game, fouled out in the first half and sat on the bench in tears when the drugs wore off.

(Barry Bonds, do you feel my pain?)

I was also the backup to the backup fullback on the J.V. football team who, on a rare day of playing time, went on a tear of at least three straight runs of 5 yards or more (epic!); and, in my haste to make history, hyperextended my thumb while getting down in a three-point stance.

At least my pants didn’t fall down.

The latest chapter of my athletic prowess happened as a soccer coach. During a one-on-one drill designed to teach the girls (under 10, mind you) to ward off a defender and shoot quickly, I got to play goalkeeper.

No matter who you are reading this, you have more experience and ability to play goalkeeper in a real soccer match than I do.

But I was on fire.

These kids couldn’t touch me. Two by two they tried, only to be turned away with a dive here, a leap there. Every save spawned the next. I pounced. I stretched. I saved.

I became 9 again, my head a sweaty mess under my mop of hair, my warm-up grass-stained, my legacy in bloom.

Then, I got cocky.

When things go my way in sports, it’s good practice to look for Haley’s Comet. It comes around about as frequently. When I get a hit in a softball game, my next time at bat, I get a little waggle.

You know. Rock the caboose. Shake my money maker.

Apparently, stopping 9-year-old girls’ shots has the same effect.

My stance developed more animation. I nodded my head and taunted a bit.
Shake, shake, shake. I.can’t.be.stopped.

So, my last great save was a dive to the left, in which I stopped the shot, lost the ball, the scrambled to recover. I could hear Hope Solo cheering me on from Seattle.

And crushing on me.

The coach at UNC Charlotte kicking himself for not realizing that pesky campus reporter who came to his games was actually a play maker.

U.S. Soccer needed me.

The shake took on a life of its own. I even bounced a ball off two girls’ feet as they ran back to their lines after that spectacular save, just for emphasis. The world? My oyster, for sure.

Then, the clapping started. Very close.

“You got two with that one, coach!” said the even closer voice.

I turned to see a gaggle of soccer moms, perched right behind the goal. Including the dreamy mama who makes half the coaches act like sailors at port every time she comes around.

A goal net makes a lousy barrier, y’all. All that butt-wagging? Turns out it wasn’t just for me.

Suddenly, I went cold. My knees stiffened. My technique wilted. Score once. Score twice! I unraveled, all because of the exposed butt waggle. I went from Hope Solo’s eye candy to Charlie Brown and the entire history of the Chicago Cubs all rolled into one.

I’m sure it wasn’t the quality of butt that drew the audience. My butt’s nothing to write home about. Not even in soccer pants.

It’s puny. Like, someone messed up on the ass-embly line. They attached a size 3 on a size 6 model. It’s functional, but I’ll never win any contests. I’m pretty sure the 3:6 ratio is fine if you’re a silverback gorilla, but a human soccer coach?

Not so much.

Without the waggle, I became ordinary. Show over. My jacket couldn’t stretch long enough to cover my shame.

For a moment, I had the limelight. Until I realized the light was on me.

All is right in the universe now, though. Practice is over. The moms packed their kindles and rounded up the kidlets. It’s time to grab dinner and find those lost water bottles.

As soon as the lights go out, this’ll all be a distant memory.

But I had my moment.

Bet your ass I did.

Under where? A coach can be exposed if he’s not prepared

photo credit: bobsfever via photopin cc
photo credit: bobsfever via photopin cc

A soccer coach, at any level, must be prepared.

Pennies. Cones. Goalkeeper gloves and jerseys. First-aid kits, including hair ties for ponytails. A line-up. A game plan. The right shirt to match your team. If you coach more than one team, don’t ever call them the wrong name.

Don’t turn up on match day in the other team’s shirt.

And don’t ever get caught with your pants down. I’m head coach for two teams, an assistant for two more. I had a 9 a.m. game with Charlotte United in Huntersville. I coach Camdyn’s 7-9 team, too. Their game started at 10:15 in Midland.

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