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Sport psychology for kids

“Sport is an important learning environment for children. It is an area of life where they receive instant lessons on losing, winning, social dynamics and how they themselves react to certain situations.”These are the words of Dr Denise Bouah, who has released her first book, Sports Psychology for Children: A Textbook Manual using stories to teach mental concepts.

Bouah, a sports psychologist who is also a Woman International Master in chess (Wim), says the book is written in everyday language and makes the daunting mental concepts accessible to the young mind.

“My goal is to make sport psychology accessible to as many children as possible. When I finished my doctorate in human movement science, I decided that I want to do something with the results of my study that will benefit children in a practical way. I didn’t want my research results to remain pure academic literature, but rather be useful to the sport community,” she says.

Bouah hopes to change the perception that sport psychology is only an elite service to athletes who can afford it.

“With this book, I am placing sport psychology in the hand of the child. A young athlete can now read and learn about mental preparation in easy, everyday language. Coaches, parents and teachers can benefit from this book as well. It will give them ideas and information to introduce and talk about certain aspects that their children are facing. This book is making sport psychology easy and understandable to all parties involved,” she explains.The book revolves around the journeys of Jad, Xena, Chika and other characters through their sport adventures and experiences as they come to learn that there is more to sport performance than just the physical component.

“The aspects in this book are primarily based on the results of the research done for my doctorate degree. My study focussed on the habits, values and mindfulness of elite athletes. In this study athletes from different performance levels were included: club, provincial, national and elite. Every story in this book includes either a habit or value that was found to be important among elite athletes.

“The book starts off by a story devoted to introducing the concept of sport psychology, mental skills and mental toughness. Some of the stories explain the meaning and usage of habits, values and mindfulness in sport, while others dive straight into a specific habit or value important for successful sport participation. The habits of being disciplined and being focussed, dealing with pre-game anxiety and setbacks as well as leadership and goal setting in the sport context are also addressed,” says Bouah.

The three-time South African Women’s chess champ, who hails from Bellville, says that despite the book being written for children, the aspects found within can be used by adults as well.

“Sport participation is a lifelong pursuit for many people, especially with people becoming more active and appreciating the value of being fit and healthy. Athletes are constantly setting and adjusting goals. They need to be able to focus and be disciplined so they can do what is necessary to achieve their goals. All athletes make mistakes, experience setbacks from time to time and it is important to deal with these in a constructive manner.

“Coping skills are needed to deal with pressure situations. Then there is the importance of awareness. Being aware of aspects about yourself, your needs, your surroundings and the influence of your surroundings on you can enhance performance.

V For more information, send an email to denise.LDbooks@gmail.com.

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