We’ve all been the new player on a team. Arriving the first day, not knowing what to expect. If you haven’t been a new player in a while, think back to your childhood. What was that experience like? Were you a confident player excited to show off your skills to a new group? Were you unsure who your new teammates would be and nervous that they may like you or not?

Being new to a group is an important developmental experience for any child. As mindful coaches, we can be aware of what this feeling was like for us – and how we can use our experience, positive or negative, to learn and help a child become a part of their new team in the best way. Everyone wants to feel acknowledged and seen, even if they’re afraid to show it or do not know how to ask for it. As a mindful coach, we can use positive strategies to help transform an experience for a child.

My favorite strategy is to enlist several current players to serve as ambassadors for the new players. Give them some basic social instructions – shake hands, ask them what school they go to, ask them where they played before – and empower current players to take the lead and help your new player. Step in where you think it’s necessary to help the group, depending on the ages of the players. Make sure to emphasize to your team that “this is the [team name] way” and give your own powerful support to the process. Check in with the new player during the at first practice or game. You can change the entire course of a child’s experience by simply being mindful on that important first day and supporting your players to do the same.