#57: When Is the Best Time For Your Athlete To Start Mental Training? 3 Questions to Ask

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Is it the right time to start learning about mental training? Should my athlete daughter be doing it in her off-season? What if she’s injured?

I get these questions a lot. Parents are now realizing that athletes need mental training. They need to know how to harness the power of their mind — how to come back from a miss, or a mistake. If you’re wondering when ‘mental training’ fits into your daughter’s athletic career, you’re on the right page because this is for you.

I’ll be going over everything from what the “sweet spot” is in terms of introducing your daughter to these concepts, and when the best time is to dive into a program

So let’s get into it. 

What is mental training?

Mental training is using the mind to leverage performance. This is the ability of an athlete to train her thoughts, behaviors, and actions, as well as navigate any situation that she comes up against. 

This control empowers athletes to have confidence in whatever situation they face. It’s a big part of reaching their elite performance. And it is only achieved through knowledge of the sport.

Elite Performance = Knowledge x Physical x Mental

When athletes start to focus on their mindset and their physical skills, it improves their knowledge of the sport. But we all know what happens when you multiply anything by zero. If any of these are taken for granted, the whole equation goes to zero. If the mental skills are on a zero, she’s never going to be able to perform at the level that she wants to.

Thinking about when you want to bring this to your daughter? Ask the following questions.

How Old Is She?

I want you to consider how old she is. Mental training should start as early as possible. However, this will look very different at each age and stage of her career. 

5-10: Awareness of tools like the breath, goal setting, visualization. 

Exposure is always great. But at the age of 5-10, just bringing awareness to the breath is enough. These are really simple skills that young athletes from 5 to 10 can learn:

  • Affirmations. Saying positive messages like, I am strong. I’m confident. I’m powerful. 
  • Goal setting. Setting goals so they’ll have the steps and know where to go.
  • Awareness. Teaching them to recognize their thoughts and how it affects them.  

11-16: Ready for ECP/Program.

That is when we recommend the athletes go through a very structured program, like the Elite Competitor Program. It’s a great program to have as they are getting to understand every detail of their sport and set bigger goals.  Situations such as feeling overly nervous, pressure, and fear of expectation will happen around these ages.  That’s why we recommend getting ahead of this and making sure the athletes have skills before they get into these situations. That way, they feel confident and that we don’t have to wait until they’re struggling to try and figure out how to help. We recommend the athletes go through programs such as “The Leaky Predator Program” or “a mental training program” that’s going to help them learn foundational skills.

17+: Mental training should be part of her daily routine.

If your athlete is 17+, mental training should be a part of her daily routine by now. If she doesn’t have these mental training skills, she’s going to get passed by athletes who do. It’s going to be difficult for her to go back and rewire those limiting beliefs.  Like me, I didn’t come across mental training until I was a sophomore in college. If I would have known these things when I was in high school, I wouldn’t quit playing volleyball after my senior season. The reason was I did not feel confident, even though I was an amazing player and my mom told me I was awesome. I was so overwhelmed. If I had these skills then, I know I would not have quit.  What a gift would it be to be able to give your daughter these skills before she gets overwhelmed to the point that she wants to quit.  So if your athlete is 17 or older, here’s your sign. If she’s not already in a mental training program, she needs to be in one.

What Season Is She In?

Mental training can be extremely beneficial in-season and out-season. 

In her in-season period, she gets to apply what she learned right away. She could take her time with the modules that are released each week and come to the live coaching calls. Then she gets to apply it the next day in her competition and practice. That way, she gets that immediate feedback!

Doing the Elite Competitor Program in their off-season is beneficial in another way. 

They will be able to absorb and store what they learned and can still apply them to whatever training they’re doing. She gets to store and enhance those skills in advance so when her season comes, she is ready to go. 

The Elite Competitor Program is one hour a week for eight weeks and after that, we’re just gonna follow them up to know if they’re on the right track. The modules are 30 minutes long and then I’m leaving time in for any other learnings that she wants to dive into. It’s infused in everything she does. Even just a little mental training a week is enough.

But what if she’s injured? We’ve had a lot of athletes come through that did the program while they were injured. Things are going on with your daughter when she’s injured. She could be having an identity crisis potentially. So, it’s a great time to dive into mental training for her to come back even stronger. 

We have another little course for an injury. We teach how to make your setback your comeback. That is something that athletes can dive into to get more specific training on how they can leverage their mental game when they’re injured. 

What Are Her Goals?

Do you know what her goals are? If she has any sort of goal to level up, she needs to be training her mind. The best time to learn these skills of mental training is not when she’s struggling. 

Of course, these tools would still help while she’s struggling. But if you take a look back on your little kid’s tantrum ages, teaching them to calm down while having a tantrum is useless. She can’t hear because she’s dysregulated. That’s the time when we just need to be with her until she gets over it. 

When everyone is calm and stable, then we talk about how we could have done that differently. Right? That’s the best time to teach. 

The best time to learn is during those unemotional and regulated times of an athlete. That’s why we urge you to give these skills to your daughter when she is NOT struggling. If you’re just going to wait and see how she does, that’s like telling your daughter to swim without teaching her how to swim. She’s going to sink and now you have to throw her a life preserver to save her. Wouldn’t it be better to equip her with the skills first to be a strong swimmer?

Also – what are YOUR goals for her? Beyond the sport, for sure you want her to be confident, have fun, and do her best. How can she do that if she’s beating herself up, comparing herself, and spiraling after mistakes? 

Equip her and set her up for success by giving her the tools she needs to achieve her goals AND your wishes for her happiness/confidence. These mental training skills are important especially if she has goals to get better or level up. The earlier she gets it, the better. 

The best time to repair a roof is always when it’s sunny!

All moms want what’s best for their daughters. If you think your daughter needs these important mental skills, then mental training is a must. It’s non-negotiable for elite performance. For your athlete to reach her potential, she has to have her mind on board. 

To know if she’s ready, consider asking these questions:

  • How old is she? If she’s between the ages of 11 to 16, she should consider being in a program that teaches the mental skills of the sport. 
  • What season is she in? Whether she’s in-season, off-season, or injured, you can’t go wrong with this.
  • What are her goals? If you know what their goal is then you’ll have an idea of how to offer help. Ask them. Athletes always have their goals. 

*If you are wondering how you can bring this up to your daughter, we have a few resources for you!

Ep. 37: What Age Should Your Athlete Daughter Start Mental Training?

Ep. 38: How to Get Your Daughter to “Buy in” To Mental Training 

Ep. 39: Athlete Special: Your Mental Game = Your Biggest Competitive Advantage


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