Sport Parenting Tips from a Non-Parent (2 of 3)

Thanks for the many responses to the previous post.

Today’s post focuses on the HOWs to help young athletes do their best without being overwhelmed by the pressures to win and to look good. Specifically, the focus is on how we can help young athletes build resilience in sport and life through a constructive Parent – Athlete relationship.

Tip 4: Stop “Should-ing!”

Imagine a parent who’s driving his kid to competition while relentlessly reminding her about what she must, should or should not do.

What’s that going to do to her mental game? Not only is this annoying, but she is also going to bring all these perceived demands into the game and she’s either going to try too hard or become too tentative and cautious. Both are opposite sides of the same coin stemming from a fear of failure and judgement.

What is this parent likely to do right after the game? No prizes for guessing! He will go into a barrage of “You should have-s” and “I told you so-s”.

No wonder sports is no longer fun and the young athlete suffers from performance anxiety!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that feedback and reminders are important but there has to be a better way to do this.



Tip 5: Ask instead of Tell

Instead of saying “You should grip the club with your fingers instead of your palm.” Try “What’s the best way to hold your club?”

Instead of saying “You should really start scoring.” Try “What have you learnt from your coach that will help you shoot more accurately?”

“The brain that does the thinking, does the learning…” Ms Penny Crisfield, International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) Master Trainer

Is it wrong to Tell? You are the adult and you are simply using your knowledge and experience to teach your kids what to do. What’s so wrong with that? Well, it’s not wrong to tell and it really depends on whether your instructions are based on the process or outcome.

Telling is associated with Teaching while Asking is related more to Coaching. Good coaching is a combination of Telling and Asking. The problem is that we are relying so much more on Telling rather than Asking to coach athletes.

Tip 6: More Coaching and Less Teaching

This is related closely to Tip 5. Teaching is primarily a one-way interaction. The teacher is the expert and shows or tells the learner how to do something. The learner either gets it right or wrong.

Meanwhile, the coach asks questions and works with the athlete to develop skills to think deeply and creatively in order to resolve the issue themselves. Coaching is about development and HOW to get it right.

The Teaching – Coaching ContinuumIndeed, Coaching requires practice and experienced coaches use a range of techniques to encourage learners to become confident and independent thinkers. However, this does not mean that you can’t coach. Now, I don’t mean interfering with the Sports Coach. Let the Coach do his job on the field. In fact, you ought to respect the coaches’ role instead of giving contradicting pointers.

What I’m suggesting is a better way to do a review (after practice or competition) with your young athlete instead of going into a tirade of ‘I told you so-s’!  

Tip 7: Review with the ESL Reflection Model

The ESL reflection model (scroll down to the infographic) is a feedback tool that I’ve developed for both coaches and parents. They have found it to be simple, intuitive and effective!

It is based on the three behaviours associated with the Growth Mindset – Effort, Support and Learning. Under each behavior, you will find questions or thinking routines intended to help align your athlete’s thoughts with the Growth Mindset.

Remember to do a review only when the athlete is receptive. Attempting to do so when the athlete is feeling emotional after a loss is definitely a bad idea!

Also, you may want to first understand the principles behind this model before applying it. Here’s an earlier post with a more detailed explanation about the ESL model.

Tip 8: Praise Effort and Learning

You’ve probably heard this one before but it’s a worthwhile reminder. Praising talent and ability actually pushes your young athlete towards the Fixed Mindset where she is more likely to be overly concerned about how she looks, be more likely to suffer from performance anxiety, and gives up easily.

Learners who are praised for effort tend to value hard work and striving to learn far more than looking smart. Here’s an article that elaborates more about this. Meanwhile, I’ve summarized Tips 7, 8 and more with the infographic below.

ABCs to Growth Mindset_ME

These 5 tips can make a huge difference to an athlete’s motivation, mental game and whether they are thinking in the Growth or Fixed Mindset.

Specifically, we are helping athletes develop confidence and resilience by focusing their energies on what they have control over (e.g., process goals, effort and learning from mistakes), rather than feeling helpless and anxious over things that they have no direct control over (e.g., winning and how others will perceive them).

They are also more likely to be reflective independent thinkers who have fun while pursuing their sporting goals.

In the spirit of “Coaching and Asking”, I will close this post with a question for parents to ponder over….

“If you were to practice these 5 tips (instead of the typical “Kiasu and Should-ing” style of parenting), what implications would that have on your relationship with your children?”

Be back with the last 4 tips relating to the role of a parent in Sport next month!

Coach Hansen

p.s. Realised that I’ve actually blogged quite extensively about Coaching and the Growth Mindset. Here are the links to them…

“So You Think You’re Special?”
Effort, Support & Learning
Why ‘Good Job’ is not good enough…
Growth Mindset…Seriously?
Why all coaches should watch this movie…
The Paradox of Winning & Losing
Changing the Way We Teach Mindset (and the Mindset of how we teach…)

Sport Parenting Tips from a Non-Parent (1 of 3)

Its universal, young athletes seek approval from their parents, and parents, for the most part, have their children’s best interests in mind.

Raising happy and successful athletes

However, against the current climate where early specialization is the norm and Direct School Admission (DSA) often the main motivation, it’s easy for parents, coaches and young athletes to get overwhelmed by the competitiveness of youth sport.

Over the years as a PE teacher and later as a Sport & Psychology coach, I’ve observed how expectations placed on athletes by their parents have not only undermined their enjoyment but their confidence as well. As a result, many aspiring athletes suffer from performance anxiety, burnout and give up on sport altogether.

Make no mistake, parents have the best intentions but they may not know how best to help their children strive for success without undue pressure. I’ll attempt to share how we can address this challenge over 3 posts. The information will be organized into 12 related tips that are built on each other.

Here are the first 3!

Tip 1: Remember Why…

“Why do children take part in Sport?” vs. “Why do parents want their children to take part in Sport?”

I was at the National Youth Sport Institute (NYSI) conference for Sport Parents last month. One of the speakers Andrew Pichardo reminded parents to remember why kids take part in Sport. Children take part in sport to have fun and to make friends.

NYSI Conference
Andrew Pichardo at the NYSI Conference for Parents


Tensions will inevitably arise when parents overemphasize on winning and worse, start influencing their children to perceive their peers more as competitors rather than friends.

Tip 2: Success without happiness is NOT Success

It is challenging to have a healthy outlook on success against a “must win” aka “Kiasu” backdrop where the definition of failure and success is so narrow – you either win or you lose. Since there is only one winner in any competition, does that mean the rest of the competitors are losers?

This narrow definition kills the joy of competition and little wonder why kids are dropping out of Sport!

 “There is no point telling a 10-year-old kid ‘you have to win’, and every day he carries on his shoulder the burden of winning and trains in order to win. It takes away the joy of sports participation. Let him grow, learn and enjoy the sport.”

Mr Ong Kim Soon, Director of Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch.

Parents who want to raise successful achievers view success and happiness as mutually inclusive. They often have a long term perspective and are able to define success in a way that taps into their children’s intrinsic motivation.

Tip 3: Success = Effort and Learning

School competitions are mainly won by the early developers – the taller and stronger kids and those who have access to better resources. Specifically, an early bloomer with (or even without) better resources will almost definitely beat the late developers.


Both students are of the same age


Pause and think about this for a moment. If success is only about winning, where does this leave the late bloomers? Most of them would give up without developing their potential. Nothing is more discouraging to effort and persistence than knowing that you are deemed a loser despite your best efforts – it’s an invitation to helplessness.

Success = Winning OR, Success = Effort and Learning?

Would it be more worthwhile for us to adopt a longer-term perspective to success? One that helps kids develop a love of learning and resilience in the face of obstacles beyond sport.

When we focus on the effort that leads to progress and improvement, not only would this help the late bloomers who’s athletic abilities will only become apparent later, but we are also equipping our youth with the attributes to succeed in the game of life.

“So HOW exactly do we raise successful and happy athletes?”

Since this is the first post, I felt it was important to first reflect on the WHY, specifically,

1. The purpose behind youth sport and,

2. How we ought to define success in youth sport (or even in life!)

This understanding will provide you with the guidance when you start applying the HOWs which I will be sharing in the following posts.

Meanwhile, I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts and comments below

Coach Hansen


How to Coach like a Greek Philosopher

Has anyone heard of Stoicism?


Two of the biggest influence on my approach to coaching – Process Focused Coaching, are Albert Ellis and Ken Ravizza. Both have passed on, and both were heavily influenced by the Stoic philosophy.

Ellis was described as a ‘Stoic Philosopher with a Sailor’s Mouth’. He was inspired by the writings of Stoic Philosophers to devise Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). REBT was the first form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and is still my preferred technique for athlete counseling.

According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is a dead ringer to the quote below by Epictetus (one of the three most important Stoic philosophers along with Marcus Aurelius and Seneca).

“It isn’t the events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.” – Epictetus

Who’s studied Sport Psychology?

You would definitely be familiar with Ken Ravizza’s work. He drew heavily from REBT to develop techniques for helping athletes overcome perhaps the toughest mental game challenge of all – to detach themselves from results and to focus exclusively on what you can control in this very moment!

This is also based on a simple (but not easy) notion that provides the foundation for Stoicism – some things you can control and some things you can’t.

“Give yourself the best opportunity for success by focusing on the 60% that you DO have and make 100% use of that 60%…” Ken Ravizza

How to be a process focused coach

The expectations and fear associated with things that we do not have direct control over – results and the opinion of others, clouds our focus, and limits our confidence. The key psychological skills (Green piece at the top right-hand corner of the illustration) for Process Focused Coaching are all related to replacing these limiting expectations with process goals.

The Growth Mindset = Stoic Mindset?

Carol Dweck may or may not have taken reference from Stoicism but the underlying concept of the Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset is definitely similar – The Growth Mindset focuses on Effort and Learning (what you can control) instead of winning and looking good (things that you can’t control directly).

The ESL (Effort, Support, and Learning) Reflection Model is based on the Growth Mindset, and it is also one of the main concepts that drive Process Focused Coaching.

Here’s a very informative article about what Sport Psychology has learned from Stoicism, and for those of you who would like to learn more about the applications of this philosophy, I reckon this book – The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, would be invaluable!

p.s. the purpose of this blog post is to share the practicality of the Stoic philosophy, and how it can benefit everyone. Hopefully, it will make you curious enough to find out more about Stoicism!

Coach Hansen

Dealing with Aggressive Coaches

The question put to me by a friend was essentially – what can she do to ask her daughter’s primary school coach to be less harsh and loud?

The primary school softball team had started holiday training in preparation for next year. She observed that the coach tends to yell at the kids when they make mistakes, as a result they tend to be very tentative when they play. Her daughter tends to “freeze out” especially when it’s her turn to bat.

Yogi Berra Quote


She has since spoken to the teacher-in-charge but the coach’s behavior has not changed. Quitting the team wasn’t an option either – her daughter is keen to stick with her friends and compete next year.

So what are her option? Here’s what I suggested…

  1. She’s got to instill in her daughter that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process and you will not improve if you do not make mistakes.
  2. She has to stop worrying about the coach and what the coach will do if she made some mistakes or screws up her batting. Get her to be aware and understand that it is a big distraction that causes undue pressure.
  3. Help her to identify the performance cues that she could re-focus on, and perceive her coach’s shouting as an opportunity to practice how to refocus.

Not sure if that will work out for her though….will wait and see…

Meanwhile, I reckon this whole episode is a good reminder for us coaches to be more conscious about our temperament and how it would affect the athletes adversely!

Coach Hansen

All Possible Paths


I was watching one of Feyman’s archived lectures that was screened during the exhibition – While explaining some sort of quantum concept, he sensed that the audience weren’t able to really grasp his explanation (neither did I) and remarked jokingly that they needn’t worry, he had many undergraduates who have spent four years with him and still did not understand Quantum Physics! He went on to share that not understanding doesn’t mean that learning hasn’t taken place, and what matters is that you are curious to want to find out more…

“An unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates

Feynman’s life and philosophy reminded me of Socrates famous dictum. Like the Greek Philosopher, the American physicist believed that curiosity – the love of wisdom – was the most important pursuit above all else. Although renowned for his work in quantum mechanics, his curious nature drove him to explore different facets of life including art and music.

Why there are weirdos obsessed with weird stuff


There were many takeaways for me from this exhibition, but the biggest one was about how Feynman lived life as if it were a series of adventures. Meanwhile, most of us are contented to play it safe and simply explore within our own box, reluctant to “waste time” learning anything that’s outside our profession, or things that we aren’t “passionate” about.

I often cringe at the mention of “passion”, I find it to be overrated and actually a limiting belief – that I will only do things that I am passionate about. It’s probably more sensible to be guided by purpose and curiosity rather than passion.

My own experience has also taught me that we can develop an interest and passion about anything if we pay attention to it enough – I didn’t start out being passionate about coaching Goalball, I coached the sport because nobody else wanted to coach the athletes with visual impairment. However, as I begin to pay attention to this “game of details”, the more interested and passionate I got about the sport.

I’ve also  “wasted time” thinking, reading and learning skills which may not be related to coaching or business, but they all end up helping me be more effective in what I do anyway. For example, many years back, I went for a forum on “existentialism” just for fun. I ended up developing a keen interest in philosophy especially Stoicism and Nihilism. Not only has this shaped my perspectives, it had also helped me become better at what I do! Speaking of which, it’s really been a while since I learnt something new or different!

p.s. For those of you who might be concerned that being curious and exploring different interest might affect your career, have a read about what Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert comics) has to say about how ordinary people find extraordinary success by combining ordinary talents in a unique way”

Some other Random Pics and Reflections by Random Couple….

Random Couple

This quantum chip the size of our fingernail has wiped out entire industries and thousands of jobs. With such technological advancement, is it even feasible or necessary for everyone to have a “job”?
even science is open to differnt perspectives, why not us
Great reminder to not be dogmatic…even Science accepts different perspectives….
Decided on your own path and define your own success…

Scientifically Yours,

Coach Hansen

Coaching = Planning?


A friend serving as a student development officer at a Polytechnic was sharing with me how one of his sports team lost a good coach. The coach did not have her contract renewed because she could not produce a detailed enough training plan. In her place was a new coach who could write a very detailed periodized training plan, but apparently sucked at coaching.

Sadly, there seems to be quite a few administrators (who spend more time behind their lap tops rather than coaching) demanding unreasonable specifics from coaches.

Many coaches themselves seem to be fixated on imposing all sorts of specifics on their athletes. When things do not go according to plan, instead of being focused on the athlete and how they can adapt right NOW, they seem more concerned about their plan, i.e., “Something’s wrong with THE plan! I need to discuss/reflect/brainstorm/research to come up with a better one.”

I don’t believe life works that way, i.e., you can’t fit life (or athletes) into a “mental model”. As coaches, we should be more concerned about how to coach RIGHT NOW, rather than being overly concerned with planning what and how to coach.

Of course I’ve got a training pathway/plan that I check against. But we are coaching people NOT paper! I’d rather focus on how to adapt and maximize learning according to what the athlete needs, and how he feels right NOW.

p.s. I reckon the ACTUAL purpose of a training plan is to assure the school or NSA that the coach is deliberate about his craft (and to pass exams). It should not be used to judge or assess a coaches’ ability! What do you think?

Coach Hansen

7 Reminders from ‘The Little Prince’

Life, relationships, looking beyond the surface, our responsibility towards each other, and the futility of adult behavior are themes explored in this story.

players are people first not athletes stats

I’ve read the book a few times and early this year, had the opportunity to visit ‘The Little Prince: The Story Behind’ – an exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication.

Revisiting the story and the quotes during the exhibition was a good reminder for me about what really matters in life, and not to be “misguided” by the folly of adulthood.

All pictures here are taken from the exhibition at the Singapore Philatelic Museum.


  1. That it’s more important to live for a cause rather than to be driven by social status or to seek admiration from wisdom
  2. That it requires patience and time to build relationships (tame each other), in order to “see what is essentially invisible to the eyes”. Hence the importance of spending time with people that matters, and not be too quick to judge others without first investing time to get to know them.
  3. That being too serious about everything and constantly repressing your feelings will cost you everything that is important! None of us are gonna get out of this shit alive…so chill lah…serious
  4. That our self-concept aka “Who Am I?” should NOT revolve around what and how much we own, our jobs nor our social status. We are more than that, and so is everyone else! And it’s ok to not necessarily know who you are!
  5. That Yes, we should first take care of ourselves (without being too self-obsessed and narcissist), but it is through service to others that we begin to experience the connection with the rest of humanity.
    take care of yourself first
  6. That we shouldn’t be like practical adults who are concerned only about the destination – always rushing to reach and arrive somewhere, and have forgotten how to enjoy the journey. It’s almost as if we have forgotten to live and are in a hurry to die (since death is our final destination).the-little-prince-sumawayzausatornosuaybaguio-iv8-beed-38-638
  7. That it’s sometimes ok to not really know nor understand where I am heading nor why I am doing something – we should follow our instincts to explore!

And finally, how does story of The Little Prince relate to coaching? Well, if you’re a coach, you’ll know 😉

Coach Hansen