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Teaching Resilience as a Youth Sports Coach

Joe Cosgrove, Pentec Health

According to research presented in Paul Tough’s 2012 book How Children Succeed, resilience serves as the primary indicator of a child’s success and degree of satisfaction as an adult. Luckily, resilience can be learned, and one of the best means of teaching it is through sports. Coaches thus have the ability to significantly influence the future success of their players.

To teach resilience, coaches need to restructure the way in which young minds think about and deal with failure. Virtually all youth athletes will face failure. Some players will struggle to pick up the basics, while others will miss that game-winning shot and feel like they let the whole team down. Children often take failure as an excuse to feel sorry for themselves rather than as motivation to work harder. A coach’s job is to reframe these struggles as opportunities and encourage children to strive toward improvement. This sort of reframing gives children the perspective they’ll need when faced with stressful situations such as college exams and, later, challenges in the workplace.


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