20 Apr 3 Simple Steps for a Confident Child

3 Simple Steps for a Confident Child

I am excited to share some great information from a member of our Susquehannock Alumni. Andrew McMeekin is a clinical psychologist specializing in youth sports, academic performance and mental health. In this article he talks about confidence and its role in sports and life!

I hope you enjoy and find Andrew’s insights helpful…


I am often asked how young kids can be more confident — especially in sports. I have a good answer. It is not magic, but rather a simple concept that I have developed through my years of experience working with families and young athletes alike.

My formula is: curiosity + courage + cognition = confidence

First, we must understand what confidence really is. It is not, contrary to popular opinion, a feeling. It is a state of mind.

The general consensus among professionals is that it is a belief that comes from experiences and one that can be developed by building on small, incremental successes. (Something that happens at Susquehannock on a daily basis.) In the formula above are the elements, the building blocks, that develop into a mindset of confidence. This is never more apparent than in youth sports.

Let’s look at each piece.

Curiosity, perhaps one of the most important elements of life in general, is important because kids need to be sparked by an interest — a curious question that commands their attention in order to focus them to try a new sport or activity. But also, there is a playfulness to curiosity which should not be undervalued.

Play is fun, and when kids are having fun at something, it is easier to learn. If the activity is not new to the child, for example if they have already discovered that they like a particular sport, then the curiosity is focused on finding new and may be more subtle aspects of the game to develop — finding their niche within the sport or the position in which they excel for example.

Courage, is important because expanding their athletic comfort zone takes some courageous exploration and requires a certain amount of bravery to persevere through the trial and error phase of learning.

Cognition (good old fashioned brain power) is important because they also need to engage their thinking-brain in learning and organizing the knowledge about the skills needed to be successful at the game. For example, learning the proper way to throw a baseball or hit a tennis stroke. Or using their thinking-brain to learn the more strategic aspects of how a game is played and how one can be successful in it. These three elements combined can help a child develop a confident mindset.

There is one more element that is immensely important though:

TRUST. All of this exploration and development has to happen within a supportive and nurturing setting. Without the comfort of feeling safe and secure, any of these elements will likely be compromised and limit the child’s ability to grow their confidence.

Camp Susquehannock Combines All This into One Big Package of Confidence

Putting it all together, when a child is curious about a new activity, can be courageous enough to try it with some success and can learn valuable information about the game, it will lead to self-reinforcing and positive thinking.

Add a little trust and support, and they can become confident in their abilities to perform in that sport and begin to develop a confident mindset for life.

The simplicity and cohesion of these elements has proven to be a winning formula for many parents, coaches and kids alike. And if these are the simple elements, an equally simple setting to grow confidence in youth sports can be a multi-sport/multi-experience opportunity like a fun summer camp. A program that is a good fit for the budding child-athlete can be the perfect proving ground for the birth and growth of their life-long mindset of confidence.