What to do when your child feels jealousy in youth sports?
Jealousy in youth sports happens on almost every team. There are athletes who are quicker, faster, and stronger, and there are those who wish they were quicker, faster, stronger. There are those who are starters, and there are those who would love to be in the game at all. There are those who are pulled up to an older team because they are “better”, and there are those who barely make the team for their age group.
It’s no wonder kids get jealous.
How can you help your child when he feels envious of a team mate?
What should your child do with his jealousy?
Begin by teaching your child to recognize his envious feelings as jealousy and then talk about what actions should not come out of that jealousy.
Help your child understand that some behaviors stemming from jealousy are wrong. For instance, it is not okay to be mean to a team mate because you are jealous. Talk with your child about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior when he feels jealous.
It’s a lot like dealing with anger. You teach your child that anger is not wrong in and of itself, but how you act out that anger can be very bad. I’m not saying that jealousy is good in and of itself, but if it is handled correctly, jealousy can actually help push your child towards positive results.
What’s good about jealousy?
All three of my children played sports–from pre-school through college–and all three of them faced situations where they had to deal with feelings of jealousy towards another player.
For one, it was the catcher a year behind my child who was pulled up to varsity while my child stayed on jv. For another, it was a basketball player who was annoying and cocky, but who was also pulled up to the next level, and who made sure that the players he left behind on the lower level knew how important he was. For the third, it was a friend who always had the edge when battling for a position on the basketball court.
We had a lot of conversations about these scenarios and we basically told our kids, you have two choices.
You can either be jealous and hold a grudge and let it ruin your performance, or you can turn that jealousy into a determination to do your best to beat out the other player. We urged our kids to let those other players push them to do their best and play their hardest. They began to understand that the better the competition, the better players they could become. In doing so, they learned to appreciate, even welcome talented athletes on the team, realizing that these “opponents” were partners, not enemies.
Help your child see that she should turn jealousy into the extra push she needs to get stronger and quicker, and keep working towards her goal.
What’s bad about jealousy?
Jealousy happens when people compare themselves with others. When your child sees a player who is much better than he is at hitting the ball or shooting baskets, he may measure his own self worth by comparing himself to that athlete. Comparison leads to feelings of insecurity.
Comparison is pointless because there is always going to be someone who is better.
Help your child understand that every player has his own strengths and weaknesses. Encourage him to focus on his own strengths and how he can improve. Jealousy and comparison only lead an athlete to be distracted from playing his best game.
Your child has a choice
As the saying goes, he can either throw in the towel, or he can use it to wipe the sweat off his face. Will your child throw in the towel of jealousy, or will he use it to make him a better player and a supportive team mate?
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