#179: 3 Signs Your Athlete is Ready for Mental Training (& The Best Time To Start)

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Is your young athlete ready for mental training?

As parents and coaches in the world of young athletes, we often focus heavily on physical skills and training. But what about the mental aspect of sports? How do you know if your young athlete is ready for mental training?

Let’s dive into three key signs that indicate it’s time to start focusing on this crucial element of their development.

Understanding Mental Training

First, let’s get clear on what mental training is. It’s not just about being ‘mentally tough.’ Mental training is about leveraging the mind to enhance performance. This includes training in thoughts, behaviors, and actions to effectively navigate any athletic situation. It involves learning to control reactions to emotions, practicing affirmation and visualization, and developing the ability to handle uncomfortable emotions confidently.

Key Indicators: Is Your Athlete Ready for Mental Training?

Discovering the right time to introduce mental training in an athlete’s journey is important. In this section, we’ll explore the tell-tale signs that indicate your young athlete is primed and ready to embrace the mental aspects of their sport.

  • Sign 1: The Prime Age for Mental Training

The prime age for beginning formal mental training is around 11 to 16 years old. At this age, athletes start to compete at higher levels and experience physical changes that can impact their confidence. They also begin to face more pressure and have higher expectations from coaches and themselves. Introducing mental training at this stage helps them navigate these challenges effectively.

  • Sign 2: Experiencing the Normal Challenges of Being an Athlete

If your athlete shows signs of nervousness, performs better in practice than in games, struggles with comparison, or has difficulty recovering from mistakes, it’s a clear indicator they could benefit from mental training. These are normal parts of being an athlete, and learning to handle them effectively is crucial.

  • Sign 3: Setting Goals and Aspiring for More

When an athlete has goals and aspirations, whether to level up in their current sport or to play at the college level, mental training becomes essential. It’s not just about getting to the next level; it’s about being prepared to handle the increased expectations and pressures that come with it.

In-Season vs. Out-of-Season Training

There’s no wrong time to start mental training. Whether in-season or out-of-season, the key is to find a balance that works for the athlete. In-season training might be more about applying skills in real-time, while out-of-season could focus on building and strengthening these mental skills for future use.

Approaching Mental Training

When introducing the concept of mental training to your athlete, your approach matters. It’s not about telling them they lack confidence; instead, it’s about framing it as a tool to help them reach their goals. Resources like conversation guides, podcast episodes, and athlete interviews can be instrumental in this process.

Final Thoughts

Mental training is as important as physical training in sports. Recognizing the signs that your athlete is ready for this type of training and approaching it in a supportive and understanding way can make a significant difference in their athletic journey.

Remember, it’s about empowering them with the tools they need to navigate the mental challenges of their sport, and ultimately, helping them to play to their potential, enjoy their sport, and handle anything that comes their way. Good luck!

Episode Highlights: 

[00:00] Mental training for athletes and when to start. Discover the importance of mental training for athletes and when to start, addressing concerns of parents who may not know if their athlete is ready.

[02:04] Mental training for athletes. The importance of mental training for athletes; recognizing that 90% of their sport is mental.

[06:03] Mental training for athletes aged 11-16. Between 11-16 years old, athletes are cognitively ready for a more formal mental training program like the Elite Mental Game, and can apply concepts to their sport.

[13:53] Mental training for young athletes. In-season and off-season mental training considerations. Tips for getting buy-in from athletes and their parents for mental training programs.

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