When I work with athletes who want to improve their games, one of the first things I tell them is that there is never an excuse for not being ready to play.

When I work with athletes who want to improve their games, one of the first things I tell them is that there is never an excuse for not being ready to play.

While that message can be watered down for really young children, it is still important for parents to work with their kids so that their child's attitude and emotional state are healthy, positive and productive before the start of each game. This mindset creates more confidence, resiliency, focus and a greater chance for athletic success.

Even if your child is not the fastest, strongest, or most skilled athlete on the field, one area where she can be equal to her teammates is in her mental preparation before games.

Being prepared includes staying positive, thinking about what she needs to do in the game, and mentally rehearsing the plays before the game starts. She also can think through the things that are relevant (such as knowing what to do when she enters the game) versus what is irrelevant (such as who is in the crowd watching).

Being ready for games means having a positive, upbeat attitude (and remind kids that attitude is something we have under our control). Being ready also means that we compartmentalize all the things we need to do and put them aside moments before a game.

If your child is not mentally prepared, it is quite likely he will perform below his ability, leading to increased frustration (and possibly an injury, or early retirement from the sport). On the other hand, kids who go into games prepared often "play above their heads" and actually improve their abilities because their focus and confidence makes up for any shortage of skills.

Here are a few more tips to help you get started:
Teach your child about the importance of keeping a positive and upbeat attitude. Your child's attitude is something that is controllable, and a parent's positive modeling can really help. Before each game, do a quick run-down of the things she needs to think about in order to be successful. Talk to your child about how pre-game preparation plays into game success. Help your child develop a pre-game routine that allows her to feel comfortable, relaxed and ready to go. Some ideas include using imagery, listening to music, or simply reviewing personal goals before going out to compete.