Late spring / early summer represents an intense period of the sporting year for young athletes across many different sports. Team sports athletes are reaching the end of their season, competing for trophies and league titles. For summer sport athletes, such our Marlow Rowing athletes, the season is barely underway. Competitive fixtures can take on a larger perceived performance. In turn, young athletes find themselves experiencing pressure and stress. We are often asked by athletes, other coaches and parents on how we can help athletes prepare for this. Here’s a few tips that may help young athletes cope with the mental side of the game.
Mental Toughness or Mental Preparedness?
Commentators, coaches and elite sports people often refer to the importance of mental toughness in winning crucial competitions. So called ‘mentally tough’ athletes don’t crack under pressure. Moreover, mentally tough athletes apply incredible and sustained pressure to their opponents. Another characteristic of the mentally tough athlete is their ability to cope when things go wrong. Perhaps a mistake during competition, or even a setback in training. Mentally tough athletes block out mistakes, adjust performances, and are able to achieve near peak levels of performance when its required.
So what is it and can it be trained? Here at NK Fitness we feel that supporting our growing number of young athletes with the mental aspects of their sport is performance. Whilst we are unsure whether we can measure an improvement in their mental toughness, we can certainly improve their mental preparedness. The distinction here is that by using preparedness, it demonstrates a conscious effort to plan for the mental aspects of performance.
Preparing for improved mental resilience
Planning ahead can go a long way to reducing the mental stress experienced by young athletes during competition. Prepare for possible eventualities before they occur. Doing so means that athletes have a plan in place if they need it. Role play and discussing scenario’s is a great way of preparing young athletes before competition. Examples of topics might include arriving late at the venue and its impact upon warm up. Team sports athletes should spend time discussing scenario’s relating to team cohesion.
Focus on the controllable
Young athletes rely on so many other people. Parents, coaches, team mates, teachers, coaches and many more. They cannot control the impact these other people have on their performance. Traffic, the weather, the competition officiating styles and their opponents preparation are all outside of their control. Therefore, coaches must work with young athletes to reduce their focus of attention on variables outside of their control. Getting young athletes to focus in on their own performance and the process of training is far more productive. We also feel that it helps create more mentally aware and resilient young athletes.
If you would like NK Fitness to be part of your coaching team for your sport then please contact us here.