Tagged in: Coaching Development, Physical and Health Education

Feedback from a Four-Year-Old

Your ears are the fingers on the pulse of students

Hi Everyone! I’m getting ready for a wonderful convention in Florida this week, and also finishing up a book chapter on critical pedagogy and immigrant students (co-authors are Dr. Jennifer Bhalla and Dr. Jamie Mandigo), so I will keep this short and sweet. Yet, I just had to touch base with this post. If you coach, teach, or parent, I think this post is worth a consideration.

You probably know by now that I am the proud mum of two children ages two and four. This weekend was a major milestone. It was even cooler than the “my kids are out of diapers” milestone - and, that’s cool! My four-year-old and I went on a real bike ride together yesterday. I’m talking - the two of us on pedal bikes, two wheelers, single file...bike ride! I didn’t have to support her while she started nor did I have to hold her while she braked. We simply rode our bikes together.

Pinch me, I’m dreaming.

What was the coolest part of this epic 3-mile circumnavigation of our hood? My daughter’s self talk. I always try to focus on this when I am teaching her something new, but yesterday was one of those few parenting days when the feedback we receive on our parenting feels tangible. I heard phrases such as:


Maybe even more outstanding is what I didn’t hear:

“I can’t do it, mum.”

“I hate this, mum.”

“It’s too hard, mum.”

In education, some folks like to call it grit. In sport, many refer to it as persistence or resilience. Call it what you want, I think self-talk is the key to attaining it. Yet, I’m not sure I was ever taught to be purposeful in helping students learn positive self-talk until I learned about sport psychology when I was attaining my first graduate degree. I’m left to wonder if the  majority or minority of physical education curricula and sport youth development programs focus on teaching this skill - self-talk - to students and athletes? Moreover, I wonder if the majority or minority health coaching programs teach self-talk to adults?

I’ve heard people say we become what repeatedly do. I think we can aspire to be far greater than anyone ever suspected when we talk to ourselves in a way that is supportive, encouraging, and positive.

In physical education and youth sport, we (physical educators and coaches) must make purposeful connections to this language. When we see heads fall in disappointment, let’s approach students and remind her/him that no one is perfect but it’s trying again that can make a person reach special milestones.

I’m not signing my four-year-old up for a cycling team, or do I suspect she’ll be first in line for a college athletic scholarship. I want her to enjoy nature through physical activity in order to receive the many health (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) benefits that are available through developing as a physically literate person. I think developing positive and determined self-talk is every bit as important as developing physical competency if we want kids to grow up with a sense of it’s okay to have room to grow. Who’s perfect? Not me. Probably not you (sorry!). Positive self-talk helps me get through the daily grind of parenting, running a business, cooking, cleaning, working out, and competing in a way that allows me to thrive in life. And, it helped my big girl beam with pride when she rode her bike into our garage after our adventure.

Scottie BikingI wrote about teaching resilience here, but I think the issue of self-talk in general is one that would be a good personal growth target for teachers new and experienced to the profession. Let’s make a coordinated effort to help all the kids in our lives ride off on the dirt path with pockets filled of productive, kind, and positive self-talk.

p.s. Yes, I know she’s wearing a hockey helmet. She’s half-Canadian, after all. :)

How about you?
How do you teach self-talk in your physical education classes or sports teams?

How do you use positive self-talk in your own goals?