How to Develop Mental Strength for Youth Athletes

How to Develop Mental Strength for Youth Athletes When They are Starting

Being a youth who’s active in sports, or a parent of one, is fun, but can also at times be challenging. There are many distractions, temptations, and things bombarding their time and attention. An important part in creating a young athlete who stays committed, excels in, and who enjoys their sport, especially on the days when the motivation is low, comes is in developing their mental strength.

How can a young athlete be supported in gaining better mental strength?

  1. Create a Safe and Supportive Space
    The times when the athlete embraces challenges, takes risks, or attempts difficult tasks should be acknowledged, supported, and applauded – even if it didn’t lead to a win. The mindset that mistakes are opportunities for performance progress, and that being bold enough to take chances is what matters, should be instilled. This inspires a growth mindset, helping them to recognize the value in pushing the limits of their comfort zone, which is where growth, and ultimately greatness, comes.
  2. Failure is Part of the Game
    While no one wants to fail, this is part of the game. Recognize that failures are the necessary stepping-stones to greatness, for everyone. It’s during failures the athlete has a perfect chance to learn and grow, physically and mentally, showing them that “success” is not just an outcome but a process that takes commitment. Like legendary coach Vince Lombardi said, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success.” Sayings are easy to say but most important is to offer tools to young players to learn how to deal with adversity. This is what the Pivot Mental Mastery and Leadership was created.
  3. View Pressure ProperlyHelp young athletes to see competitive or challenging situations as exciting self- challenges rather than as negative situations. Even when playing a team sport, ultimately, they should be encouraged to focus on improving themselves through self- challenges (mental and physical), which in turn support the team. Challenges are opportunities.
  4. Healthy Self Talk
    Helping to install a healthy habit of positive self-talk is vital to positive mental and physical performance. The youth athlete should have help and encouragement in developing a realistic and optimistic outlook on things and be guided in reframing negative thoughts and situations when they arise. Within the Pivot Mental Mastery and leadership development program, we teach players and parents how to have the proper self talks for long term success.
  1. Remember it Should be Fun
    Always remember that the goal of playing the sport is not only to grow, but to have fun. Win or lose, the process should be one that is enjoyable, not just when the win happens. This is what we are told but it doesn’t always happen. Learn how you can turn every job, challenge or negative situation into a fun game.
  2. Human Element
    Treat the athlete with respect, dignity, and honesty. Remind them that others are watching and looking up to them and what they do, and how they react. Youth athletes are far more likely to be mentally tough when they’re treated as respected human beings more so than as children. It’s also important that the athlete’s role models, especially ones close like parents and coaches, practice the mental behaviors of respect, listening, dedication that the athlete is being told to do.

The biggest game the youth athlete plays is the one going on inside their head. Consistently utilizing these tools can help them develop their greatness by strengthening their mental capacities.