Can Kids Use Mental Training?
Your young athlete has probably been training for a while. They may even have some private coaches they go to. All of this is done to give your kid the best chance of succeeding within their sport and reaching their goals.
But I would also go on to guess the training I just described is solely centered around physical training. But what about mental training? Can young athletes train their mindset through the use of mental training?
The answer is absolutely!
And in this article, you're going to learn what mental training involves, the benefits of mental training for kids, and a simple way you can get your young athlete started with training their mindset.
Mental Training Defined
Mental training, whether for older athletes or younger athletes, involves using sports psychology tools and techniques to train and develop mental skills.
I always like to compare mental training to physical training, because the same core principles apply. There is a skill that needs to be improved, a plan is created to facilitate improvement, and then action is taken.
For example, if you have a young baseball player who wants to improve his hitting, how would this take place?
Either on your own, or with a coach, you would work with him on figuring out what parts of his swing need to be worked on. Then, you would choose the drills that would help improve those skills.
After that, he would work on the drills, either on his own, or during coaching sessions.
Just like a young baseball player improving his swing, any young athlete can use the same principles of training to improve their mindset. The only difference is the skills we're working on and the tools chosen to improve the skill.
Here are a few of the main mental skills kids can work on within mental training:
- Handling pressure
- Calming their nerves
- Resilience (bouncing back from mistakes)
- Positive self-talk
Benefits of Mental Training for Kids
As your young athlete works to develop these skills, there are many benefits they will experience; both mental and physical.
There's a reason so many people say success in sports is mental — a strong mindset will allow your young athlete to perform at their highest level and have fun doing so.
When there is an absence of mental skills, mental blocks form. These are the main reasons why your young athlete may play better in practices than games.
So, as they get to work on training their mind, many benefits will be experienced. With four of the main ones being...increased confidence, the ability to manage mistakes, having more fun, and mental toughness.
Building confidence in young athletes is critical to their mental health and performance level on the field or court.
When self-doubt consumes their mind, it can take all the fun out of the game. Not to mention the fact they'll hold themselves back due to fear of failure.
A perfect example of this is a young basketball player I worked with who played timidly due to fear. By building his confidence, he was finally able to play more aggressively and the way he knew how.
In sports, there is no avoiding mistakes. There is only learning how to deal with them in a positive and productive way. But that doesn't mean mistakes aren't extremely frustrating; something many young athletes know all too well.
But what happens when mistakes are responded to in a negative way? For instance, the young athlete gets upset and loses their composure.
Well, not only is this going to increase their chances of making more mistakes, but it will also lead to self-doubt and many negative forms of thinking.
Through mental training, your young athlete will build the skill of managing mistakes in a more positive and productive way.
Now, having fun, at the most basic level, is the reason kids should play sports. Key word being should. A lot of times this idea of having fun is lost when expectations increase.
But as expectations rise and pressure increases, if they lose sight of enjoying themselves, the young athlete's performance level will significantly drop and they run a greater risk of burning out within their sport.
With mental training, your young athlete will learn how to manage the factors that lower enjoyment and learn the skill of focusing on what they love about the game. Put simply, they will learn how to have more fun while playing!
Stronger Mental Toughness
As a mental coach, I see mental toughness as the culmination of mental skills. Just like a strong body is made up of many muscles, a strong mind is made up of many mental muscles.
As mental skills are developed, mental muscles form and the young athlete becomes more and more mentally tough.
With mental toughness being such a sought after skill within sports, the earlier your kid can develop a strong mind, the greater their chances are of competing at a high level.
Simple Way to Get Your Kid Started With Mental Training
In a second I'm going to talk about a more in-depth approach to mental training for kids. But what if right now you just want a simple way you can introduce them to the idea?
If that's the case, then I suggest choosing one of the following mental training tools and teaching it to your kid.
- Self-Talk: this involves reframing the way they speak to themselves. What you can do is get them to create a list of positive statements they can then repeat to themselves every day. This is a great tool for building confidence. Here's an article that goes into more detail on how to start a self-talk practice.
- Mindfulness: training focus, along with calming their mind (which does wonders for nervous athletes) can be accomplished with mindfulness. What you can do is have your kid sit down, close their eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Then tell them to focus on their breathing, and whenever they start to think about something else, to simply bring their attention back to their breath. Start with 2-3 minutes a day. Here's an article that goes into more detail on mindfulness for athletes.
- Visualization: building confidence, managing mistakes, enjoying themselves more...all of these skills can be improved with visualization. What you can do is have your young athlete close their eyes and imagine themselves performing. Have them see themselves play well, and feel confident and successful as they do. Here's an article that goes into more detail on visualization for athletes.
Mental Training for Kids
Now, if you are interested in a more in-depth approach to mental training for your kid, there are two resources I have available.
The first is The Mentally Tough Kid.
This is a six module course where your young athlete will learn how to increase their confidence, manage mistakes, improve focus, calm their nerves before a game, set strong goals, and have more fun while playing.
The second resource is one-on-one mental performance coaching.
With mental coaching, I will work directly with your young athlete via 50-minute coaching sessions each week. These are virtual, so you have access to the coaching wherever you are in the world.
I will start them off with a mental game assessment, after which I will create their custom mental game plan.
To learn more about mental coaching for your kid, please fill out the form below or schedule a free introductory coaching call.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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