Coaching youth sports involves mental and physical dedication. Without mental strength, no matter how skilled you are at a sport, you'll always be vulnerable for a slump or a breakdown in performance.
Sometimes, you can coach a child and after a few practices their skills significantly improve. But what happens when they go into a slump and their performance drops off? Do they persevere and push through it or do they look at you in frustration for guidance? What about the kids who put everything into each practice and still show no improvement?
Face it, no matter how long or how hard a person practices, at some point their body is going to succumb to fatigue. This is why, as a coach, you need to teach youth to let their thoughts and their minds lead their bodies. This automatically leads to developing the ability to overcome any adversity.
"I figure practice puts brains in your muscles."
Sam Snead, Professional Golfer
This quote doesn't just refer to physical practice. This encompasses every single thought, action and reaction while playing a sport. Kids take every single experience and develop core beliefs from them early on. These beliefs become part of their subconscious programming and therefore affect their future aspirations and accomplishments. Every single experience is going to have either a negative or a positive influence on them. Incorporating mental strength combats any negative experiences.
Here are some tips to help you incorporate mental strength into youth sports:
Teach Perseverance as a Mental Skill
Just as any skill, the more you practice it, the more it develops. When working with kids, teaching perseverance involves teaching them to set out personal challenges and goals that they're going to accomplish starting in their minds. You want to establish a positive core belief that they can establish first in their mind and then accomplish through action (perseverance).
When they want to improve their kick, have them set a goal such as "I'm going to kick the ball farther than I usually do at least twice." It begins with a sustainable goal. Setting out to automatically kick the ball farther every single practice is setting them up for failure. Tell them what their goal is by saying "Okay, I want to see you kick that ball past center field twice by the end of practice. Now tell me what you're going to do by the end of practice. " It all begins the moment they state their goal out loud. It's established when they begin persevering toward that goal and manifests when they accomplish it.
Show Them How to Relate Youth Sports to Everyday Life
There's a wonderful rush of self-confidence that arises when kids make a really great play. It makes them feel like they can accomplish anything. But once they're off the field, they don't take that self-confidence or that perseverance and apply it in their studies or in their personal lives. This is because they haven't been taught how to mentally incorporate what they do in sports into their regular lives. Once they understand that they can take that same drive and focus they used to score a goal during the game and incorporate into studying for an exam, they'll have the mental strength to persevere in other aspects of their lives.
Learn To Do The Uncomfortable
When coaching, you may find it necessary to change how a child is swinging the bat or kicking the ball. At first, it's very uncomfortable for the child because they have to do something that's outside of their comfort zone. Use this discomfort to mentally strengthen them. Tell them all they have to do is overcome that feeling of discomfort. Show them a direct path to use to change their technique. Then encourage them to do it the way you showed them until it's comfortable.
Learning to do the uncomfortable takes tremendous mental skill because you're reprogramming your subconscious to do something out of the ordinary. Not only does this enable players to adapt and overcome the issue so that they can play different positions and adapt to new strategies, but it disciplines them to reject immediate gratification and hold out for a better, more successful outcome.
When you incorporate mental strength into coaching youth sports, you open up an entirely new avenue for increasing performance that will follow each and every child you coach for a lifetime. If you're interested in pursuing coaching, please take a minute to check out our outstanding products that make coaching much easier so you can focus on impacting lives.
Photo Credits: Michael Toon's Flickr