If you’ve been involved in sport for any amount of time, you will know that it has it’s ‘ups’ and ‘downs’. On any given day an athlete can feel the exhilaration of a big win or the bitter taste of a big defeat. This is ultimately what makes sport exciting and big business. If the favourite always won then bookmakers would go out of business. If Goliath always beat David, then competitive sport would not have the same appeal. The experienced adult athlete will understand this, having suffered many setbacks and defeats in their career. However, for talented young performers it can be a difficult to deal with setback and adversity. It is therefore important for youth sports performance consultants to help young athletes place adversity into perspective.
Mental resilience and toughness
One topic that often comes up when discussing high level performers with both coaches and athletes is the concept of mental toughness and resilience. By this we are talking about the ability to not allow setbacks, whatever they may be, derail the performance journey. Mentally resilient athletes seem to better cope with failure, occasions, pressure and external distractions. They develop a ‘whatever it takes’ (within reason) attitude to performing at their best.
The jury is out amongst coaches as to whether true mental toughness can be developed. Some athletes seem to be better at it than others. We can all think of athletes across sports who have been labelled ‘chokers’. However, like many other variables in sport, we at NK Fitness believe that it can be developed and it’s a big part of our work as youth sports performance consultants.
Adversity and the youth athlete
Adult athletes have the benefit of experience. This often means that they’ve experienced their fair share of injuries, losses, distractions and failures, both in and out of competition. However, parents and coaches of high performing junior athletes often have to deal with someone who may be experiencing this for the first time. Talented young performers can become very accustomed to winning and outperforming many of their peers. However, as you progress up the performance ladder this becomes increasingly difficult.
At some point, and on plenty of occasions, young performers are going to experience big losses, big under performances, losses of form, external pressures / distractions, and injuries. The role of youth sports performance consultants and coaches is to help the athlete process these properly. Results and performances are transient. The range of factors that influence a performance is limitless, let alone the factors that influence other competitors and results. Youth athletes must understand that they can only control aspects of their own performance, not that of opponents. Therefore, control of the result / outcomes is outside of their control.
Adversity and Failure as learning opportunities
From a youth sports performance consultants perspective failures represent fantastic learning opportunities. We work hard with young athletes to view them as clues as to how we get better. In fact we could almost celebrate them. Every failure is a step toward improved performance. Only through experiencing and the dealing with adversity can young athletes develop their training and competitive resilience. So rather than letting failure and defeat knock youngsters back, we need to be using it to guide the way forward.
NK Fitness work with many talented young athletes from a range of sports providing consultancy on a range of youth performance areas, as well as elite level strength and conditioning experience and coaching. For further information please contact us