Building Confidence in Children

We Make Footballers
26 May 2022

The benefits football has on a child’s confidence.

Children’s football has many benefits, some obvious and others not. One of those that fall into the latter category is the impact that playing football with a coaching company such as We Make Footballers Leighton Buzzard can have on a child’s confidence, which in turn plays an important role in their long-term development.
When a child has confidence in their abilities and believes they can succeed, they are more likely to do so. Confidence also has an important role to play in understanding failure; a child with confidence ingrained is better equipped to deal with the setbacks that are part and parcel of growing up, making them willing to give whatever did not go to plan another go having learned from their mistakes.
Here are some of how playing football can have a positive impact on your child’s confidence levels.

Football gives a child a chance to feel successful

“Winning breeds confidence” is one of the most used footballing cliches out there, partly because it is true. Children’s football is not all about winning, but the saying still applies in its way as the success that the sport can help a child feel also creates confidence.

That does not come from winning, but from achieving. When a child has spent training sessions learning how to ‘Cruyff Turn’ or to shoot with their weaker foot and they suddenly pull it off, that success gives them confidence and builds self-esteem.

It also teaches the value of hard work. No child will succeed straight away at every aspect of football – practice makes it permanent to throw in another quote – and that is a lesson learned once a child masters a skill they have pushed hard to achieve.

Football helps a child learn from their mistakes

On the face of it, making mistakes may not seem the best way to build confidence. Sometimes though, trying and failing at something helps a child learn. When they are then successful next time, that can do wonders for their self-esteem.

Take that Cruyff Turn scenario again. Say a child has been practising it in training at WMF Leighton Buzzard, the opportunity arises to try it in a game situation, but it does not work and possession is lost. Rather than criticize the fact that the skill did not work out this time our coaches will praise the fact that the player attempted the skill in the first place.  The child then goes away, practices again with their coach and next time, the Cruyff Turn is a complete success, leaving an opponent bamboozled.

The child’s confidence receives a huge boost from the improved outcome. It makes them more willing to try new things and also removes the fear of failure; whilst they might not do it right the first time, by working out what went wrong and practising they know they can get there eventually.

Having the confidence to make mistakes and a belief in the value of perseverance is an important lesson to carry through life.

Football offers children encouragement

One of the best ways to boost confidence is through encouragement and any child who plays football with We Make Footballers will certainly get plenty of that. When a child is made to feel that they have done something well or are progressing towards a specific target, then their confidence grows massively.

From playing a through ball with their weaker foot to scoring their first headed goal, every time a child is congratulated by their coaches or teammates or achieves something new, they build up the confidence to take on the next challenge – both on the football pitch but more importantly, in wider life.

“A kid who lacks confidence will be reluctant to try new things”, says Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist and parenting expert.

Here are our eight most important rules to build confidence and self-esteem in children:

  1. Appreciate effort no matter if they win or lose.

At WMF we recognise that if you applaud the effort a child is making and not just celebrate success then more confidence is built over the long term.  The secret is to eliminate the fear of failure.  Fear is the enemy and ambition and willingness to try are the building blocks to creativity.  The greatest success stories are also the ones that have failed the most.  If the failures can be seen as simply a stepping stone on the path to success then they can also be celebrated!  So at We Make Footballers, we appreciate the effort no matter if they win or lose.

  1. Encourage practise to build competence.

We believe that a child's self-esteem will be improved if their competence improves.  So if you become good at something your self-esteem is raised.  Therefore we encourage practice to build this competence.  The trick here is to make sure you are practising the right things!  As Bobby Robson once said ‘practice makes permanent.  So we need to ensure that we are coaching the children in the correct methods so that they can practice in the right way. 

It has been proven many times over that if you practice something for many hours you will inevitably improve.  (provided you are practising the correct way!)  If you ever get a chance to read Malcolm Gladwell's book ‘Outliers’.  To paraphrase Gladwell ‘it takes 10,000 hours of intense practice to achieve mastery of a complex skill’.  So with enough practice, you can and will master any task. 

 With this in mind, We Make Footballers spend many hours creating drills and session plans that encourage repetition and encourage the children to practice.  As the players become more proficient their success rate increases and so to their self-confidence.

  1. Let them figure out problems by themselves.

Allowing children to problem solve on their own will develop confidence and erode fear of failure.  If parents, coaches, teachers etc make the decisions for children they will never learn how to problem solve on their own.  Children should experience a few B’s and C’s in the quest for A’s rather than to achieve straight A’s all the time.  At some point, these young adults will have to face the world on their own and developing the tools to cope should be the aim of anyone coaching or teaching them. 

If you have a chat with one of our coaches you will find out that our sessions are designed to let the game coach the children rather than the coaches constantly solving the problems on the players' behalf.   So we set the session up in such a way as to let the players make the decisions.  We guide, encourage and demonstrate of course but the players feel that they are in control of their decision making and figuring out the problem themselves. 

  1. Let them act their age.

 This is a big one for We Make Footballers!  If children see that only performing as well as an adult is a success then they will be discouraged to try as this outcome is unrealistic.  As discussed throughout this blog we need to ensure that success is measured in many ways.  We need to make sure that there are mini successes along the journey as striving to meet advanced age expectations can reduce confidence. 

  1. Encourage curiosity.

We like to encourage the children to ask questions as this shows they realize that they don’t know everything.  Understanding that they don’t know everything means they are easier to teach and are more open to learning.  This is a great quality to take into adulthood as we can all learn something new every day. Every day’s a school day!!

  1. Give them new challenges.

Creating an environment where small victories are achievable will add to building children's confidence.  So we can set new smaller challenges that children can accomplish on the path to larger accomplishments.  Touching the ball with every part of your foot is on the path to ball mastery, which in turn is on the path to becoming a superstar dribbler of the ball. 

Challenging the children to dribble with the sole of their feet or the inside, and outside of both feet are challenges that everyone can and will achieve.  Celebrating these mini successes helps in building children's self-confidence.  Mastering the ball with the various parts of the foot then helps them to achieve their next challenge of dribbling through the cones.  Each layer or milestone is first set up as a challenge and then with every success, it teaches the children what they can and will achieve.   The lesson is that with practice and effort they can achieve their goals.

  1. Never criticize their performance.

 This is the one that most grassroots coaches struggle with!  We Make Footballers are all about useful feedback and making suggestions as nothing erodes confidence like telling the children they are doing a bad job.  We treat mistakes as building blocks for learning.  We let the children make mistakes so that they can figure out how to approach the same situation differently the next time.  

We don’t want to eliminate mistakes but rather treat them as opportunities for new learnings.  The best moments come when the child works something out on their own having failed a few times before.  These eureka moments are brilliant for a child's development and live long in their memory.  These moments build on the child's confidence as they realize they can do it and that they can also work it out on their own.

  1. Share your knowledge and teach them what you know how to do.

We advise and help them open the door to new methods and experiences.  We establish the correct techniques and then allow them to practice and develop to continually improve.  As role models to the children, our coaches are aware that when we demonstrate a new skill or technique and succeed they see that it can be done and believe they can do it too!  Experiencing new things is fundamental to a child's development and helps them develop confidence in the wider world.

We are looking to give just the right amount of assistance when our players face adversity.  Too much help and the child doesn’t build up that resilience we talked about.  The key is to help them as much as they want to help themselves.  That way they have a key role in the success achieved.

It takes courage to try something new so we will praise new ideas and skills.  If our players are trying to attack in a new or different way this is to be encouraged and celebrated. 

 WMF Leighton Buzzard is here to help!  If you would like to give one of our sessions a try please get in touch for a FREE TRIAL.