Sports Psychology for Kids Articles

Benefits of Youth Mental Coaching

Eli Straw
Benefits of Youth Mental Coaching

Youth mental coaching involves teaching mental skills to young athletes. Typically the ages of youth athletes range from 9-12.

As a mental performance coach, I have worked with many athletes in that age range. And while the work varies from youth athletes to older athletes - such as high school, college, or professional athletes - the impact it has on their game and their lives is just as powerful.

In this article I'm going to talk about all the benefits you can expect from having your young athlete work with a mental performance coach.

But first, let's briefly take a look at what mental coaching is in the first place.

What is Youth Mental Coaching?

Mental coaching involves teaching mental skills to your young athlete.

I always like to compare mental coaching to physical skills training. I'm sure you've had your youth athlete work with a skills coach. Whether it was through private instruction or simply the coach of their team.

Either way, they've spent time working on the fundamentals of their game. Their physical game, that is. With mental coaching, we work on developing the fundamentals of their mental game.

It's well known that a large part of success in sports is mental. But what's also important to remember, especially with younger athletes, is that a large part of enjoying your sport is mental as well.

I've worked with many athletes who've lost the love for their sport. This happens because of mental blocks like fear and anxiety that suck the joy out of the game.

So that's one of the main benefits of mental coaching for younger athletes, it increases their enjoyment. But we'll talk more about that in a bit.

Youth mental coaching happens through weekly coaching sessions where I work with your young athlete on building positive mental skills.

In addition to coaching sessions, a large part of the mental coaching I offer are action steps.

These are exercises your young athlete will do during the week. Think of these like drills they do on their own to improve their swing or their shot. They are an important piece to the coaching.

Within youth mental coaching, there are many different mental skills that will be built, such as...

  • Self-Confidence
  • Focus
  • Mental Toughness
  • Self-Awareness
  • Managing Mistakes
  • Performing Under Pressure
  • Resilience
  • Positive Self-Talk

To build these mental skills, there are many mental training tools and techniques I use. Including visualization, mindfulness, goal setting, and more.

It is through the use of mental tools that work to build positive mental skills, that the benefits listed below are gained.

Benefits of Mental Coaching for Young Athletes

When you have a youth athlete who's serious about their sport, one thing you want to be sure of is that they have a strong mindset.

From a competitive standpoint, it will give them an edge over their peers because so few spend time focusing on the development of mental skills.

But also from a mental health standpoint, you are helping to protect them from all the known stressors and challenges athletes face as they get older.

If they can learn how to manage anxiety, bounce back from failure, and much more from a young age, this will help them as they get older and the stress and pressure only increases.

Benefit #1: Real Self-Confidence

Confidence is a trait all athletes need, no matter their age. The younger an athlete learns how to build their confidence, the better.

Now, the reason I say the benefit young athletes can expect from mental coaching is real self-confidence, not simply self-confidence, is because of where the confidence comes from.

It's easy to feel good if you play well. Just like it's easy to feel good if coach gives you a compliment.

But what happens when you don't play well or you don't get a compliment (or worse, you're critiqued)?

Then you can see your confidence drop. This is known as fragile self-confidence. The young athlete's confidence is coming from sources outside their control.

Real self-confidence is developed by focusing on what the young athlete can control. Then using what they can control (such as focusing on their strengths) to build true trust in themselves and their skills.

Benefit #2: Positive Self-Talk

When an athlete is young, specific thought patterns start to form. They've likely formed already. But at a younger age, they're much easier to change than when the athlete is older.

The reason thoughts are important to control is because of the impact they have on the mind.

The way a young athlete thinks is going to impact the way that they feel. If after every mistake they beat themselves up, that will tear down their confidence and can drastically lower their motivation.

With mental coaching, youth athletes learn how to recognize their thoughts. This is known as self-awareness. From there, they will learn how to change negative thoughts for more positive and productive ones.

These positive thoughts are known as positive self-talk. And the more positive self-talk a young athlete has, the better they will feel and the better they will perform.

Benefit #3: Stronger Mental Toughness

Growing up I played baseball. And I heard from many coaches the importance of being mentally tough. The only problem was...no one showed me how.

I can remember being so frustrated because I wanted to build mental toughness, but I wasn't exactly sure how I could.

It made complete sense to me from an early age how to improve my swing. Just as it made sense how I could improve my fielding.

But mental toughness, how could I improve that?

Well, as a mental performance coach, I now know how. And through youth mental coaching, your young athlete will develop stronger mental toughness. This will help them face the challenges and adversities that are bound to come their way as they compete.

Benefit #4: Change in Focus

Outcomes are everywhere in sports. The very nature of competition leads us to focus on the score and how the game went from an outcome perspective.

And while all that's great, it's not what an athlete actually needs to be thinking about when competing.

One of the leading causes of anxiety in sports is outcome-oriented thinking. This happens when you're too focused on what may or may not happen.

It's an easy way of thinking to adopt because, like I said, outcomes are everywhere in sports.

But when an athlete focuses too much on the outcome, especially a young athlete, this leads them to worry about how they'll perform and also leads to a fear of mistakes.

Instead of focusing on the outcome, young athletes need to learn how to focus more on the process.

Through youth mental coaching, your young athlete will learn how they can focus more on the process during games. I do this by using a tool known as performance objectives.

They will also learn how to focus more on the process during practices, so they are actually putting in more deliberate work and focus that's going to have the biggest impact on improving their game.

Benefit #5: Increased Enjoyment

The final benefit I want to talk about is by far the most important.

Too many times athletes lose the joy in their sport at an early age. This may be due to increased pressure, anxiety they feel, fear, or any other reason. But they no longer approach their sport from a standpoint of having fun.

Now I know youth leagues are becoming increasingly competitive and young athletes have just as much ambition as older athletes to perform their best. But that doesn't mean they still can't enjoy themselves.

In fact, having fun when you're playing is one of the best cures for performance anxiety, fear of failure, or increased pressure.

And I don't just mean for youth athletes.

I've worked with college players who have seen an increase in their in-game performance because they took their attention off the outcome and focused more on having fun.

For youth athletes, it's a powerful skill to learn how to continue to enjoy the game even when competition and pressure increases.

With youth mental coaching, your athlete will experience an increase in enjoyment. One that will make the game more fun for them, but will also lead to great success for them on the field or court.

Get Started With Youth Mental Coaching

The mind is a key piece to success as an athlete, no matter the age. The younger an athlete begins developing mental skills, the better.

Youth mental coaching will help athletes build real self-confidence, positive self-talk, mental toughness, stronger focus, and an increased enjoyment in their sport.

If you're interested in learning more about mental performance coaching for young athletes, please fill out the form below.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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