Young athletes put so much time and energy into developing their technical skills and fitness levels yet virtually ignore the most powerful part of their body – their brain!
Our brain tells our body how to feel and ultimately what to do.
Imagine if your athlete had the ability to turn feelings of anxiety, doubt and frustration into higher levels of confidence, focus and resiliency.
This is a game-changer for sports and life!
The problem is no athlete can just will themselves to have a strong mindset, they must develop it just like any other skill.
Here’s how any athlete regardless of age or level can start developing a winning mindset. It starts with four key mindset changes. BTW, at the end of this article, I’ll show you how to access a more detailed guide on these 4 keys.
Key #1: Embrace Failure
We’ve all heard it before. Failure is part of the athletic journey. However, it’s one thing to understand it, but a totally different thing to live it.
Young athletes have to accept the fact that failure is going to happen at every practice and every game, no matter how talented they may be.
By ‘embracing failure’, the mindset is that you’re going to take each of these situations and make a conscious effort to learn from them.
How? By asking questions: What did I do wrong? What can I do differently? What needs to change? Did I have full control of the situation?
These questions allow an athlete to take each situation as a learning experience, which prepares the mind for future similar circumstances. This reduces and eventually eliminates the fear of failure!
Key #2: Narrow Your Focus
Athletes create unnecessary anxiety and doubt by focusing on far too many things, especially on those they can’t control.
Hands up if you’ve seen a player or coach stay on a referee after a bad call? Heck, this was one of my biggest weaknesses as a player.
Whether it’s a referee’s bad call, a coach’s decision or the behaviour of others, young players need to narrow their focus to only the situations they have 100% control over and there’s only three:
- Physical Readiness – This has everything to do with being physically ready to compete. This includes everything from skill training, strength and conditioning, nutrition, sleep, etc.
- Effort Level – It doesn’t matter what the score is. Whether up by three or down by three, a player has full control of the effort they give all the time.
- Thinking – It’s the hardest of the three but there’s no doubt it’s the most important. That’s because a player’s thinking affects their feelings, which have a direct effect on their performance.
If a young athlete has their mind somewhere else besides these three focal points, I can guarantee they are wasting their time and energy.
Key #3: Commitment Level Reset
Let’s start with what I feel is a good definition of the word commitment, which is: doing what a player needs to do to succeed, even if it might not feel good.
Wait a minute Coach Gad, shouldn’t sports be enjoyable? Yes of course. For the most part, but for a player to push themselves to another level, they need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable at times.
This makes sense when they’re out on the field or in the gym. But for a young athlete to develop to their full potential, they need to begin to train their brain, which can be uncomfortable when starting out.
Where to begin? It starts by blocking out 10 minutes once a week, that’s it. Have your athlete read and understand these 4 Keys that I’m covering today. Also at the end of this article, I’ll provide a link to get the expanded version.
By doing this little extra, your athlete will be doing what 99.9% of athletes don’t do: train their brain. This is another level of commitment.
Key #4: Working Smarter – Not Harder
There’s no short-cut to success. Or is there?
Well, the truth is that all athletes have to put in the hard work to have a chance to succeed. But it’s not just about how hard you work. It’s about working hard and working smart!
What good is it for an athlete to have great skills and be a physical specimen if they let emotions overcome them?
In the world of performance psychology, there’s a secret that almost no young athlete knows about and it’s this…
Our brain doesn’t know the difference between someone physically practicing a skill or thinking about practicing the skill. The same neural-connectors are formed and develop either way!
Now, I’ll get more in-depth about visualization in another post/article, but to start, get your athlete to start imagining what he or she wants to achieve. Have them imagine which new skills they want to develop, and which weaknesses they can improve on.
HINT: Remember the 10-minutes once a week I suggested (Key #3)? Well, your athlete can use this time to visualize!
There you have it: Four key mindset changes every athlete needs to make ASAP, so they can begin to develop the skill of mental toughness.
P.S. As promised, to get my free (more detailed) guide, ‘The 4 Key Mindset Changes Your Athlete Needs to Make ASAP, CLICK HERE!