Sports Psychology: Improving Mental Toughness in Young Athletes
By Kids In Sports
Posted December 6, 2017
Parents and coaches who are knowledgeable about "mental game" challenges and strategies are better equipped to instill confidence in their young athletes. Here are a few important tips to be aware of.
Having high expectations for your kids can sometimes cause kids to feel pressured. We have the intended goal of boosting kids' confidence, but often, this has the opposite effect. We help parents and athletes understand that strict expectations—parents' demands about how their kids should perform—actually hurt kids' performance. Athletes who have high levels of self-confidence end up in the winner's circle. You want your athletes to feel fully confident at game time. That means you need to keep your expectations in check. Parents' and coaches' overly high expectations can cause athletes to focus too much on the results. This often makes them feel frustrated, especially when they are not performing up to their (and your) standards.
Watch What You Say
In sincere efforts to be supportive, parents and coaches often say things that kids interpret as expectations. Some athletes might think they need to be perfect at the plate and get a hit every time at-bat, and if they don't they are letting down the parent or the coach. You might think this sounds like a stretch, but this is how the minds of young athletes’ work. Kids internalize or adopt your high expectations, then become overly concerned or worried about getting a hit every time at-bat out of the fear of letting others down
Emphasize Process Over Results
Be careful about the expectations you communicate to your young athletes. We suggest you focus on more manageable goals or objectives that help kids focus on the process. For example, you might ask softball players to see the ball early when at-bat or let go of mistakes quickly. Your players can accomplish these important objectives more often than getting a hit every time at bat. If coaches or parents want to help your young athletes achieve their full potential in sports and reap the many benefits, be sure to acquaint yourself with these and many other mental game strategies to improve success.