A recently launched book aims to prepare primary school children for the emotional challenges they will face during their sporting career.
Sport Psychology for Children was written by author and counselling psychologist Dr Denise Bouah (39), for children who want to learn more about the mental side of sport performance.
“It is also a useful guide for parents, teachers and coaches who, at times, must play sport psychologist. The lessons learnt are not restricted to sport; they can also be used in other areas of a child's life,” says Dr Bouah.
She explains that sport psychology is the study of human behaviour in sport.
“It addresses our emotions, thoughts and behaviour, focusing mostly on mental aspects and how best to utilise them in performance.”
Dr Bouah, from Bellville in the Western Cape, says the book addresses the 10 main mental sport concepts.
“Children will learn what sport psychology is and what is meant by mental toughness and mental skills. They will also explore the concepts of mindfulness; anxiety (especially pre-game anxiety); being disciplined; values in sport; habits and how they work; leadership; goal setting; and how to deal with a loss or mistake.”
The book is written in everyday language and makes hard mental concepts easy to understand.
“Children journey with 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. Bob, for example, learns about dealing with a loss, Chika overcomes her pre-game anxiety and Xena learns to control her breathing,” says Dr Bouah.
She also coaches chess to primary school children once a week, teaching them by telling stories.
“I made up ridiculous, farfetched stories about the chess pieces and they loved it! So, I combined my passion for children, sport psychology, animals and writing,” she says.
“The final push to write my book came as I needed to find a way to offer sport psychology to children. My goal is to make sport psychology accessible to as many children as possible,” she adds.