#74: Q&A: How to Help A Young Athlete Develop Confidence

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It’s never too young for your athlete to start mindset training. The earlier the better! The earlier we can have our athletes know and believe that their mind is their biggest muscle, the more they can optimize it.

There is an old belief that mental training or mindset training is only suitable for those kids in high school. There are a lot of parents who notice their child struggling but are concerned about their child being too young to be open about mental training.

Today, we’re gonna answer a question from the mom of an 8-year-old softball player. We’re going to give suggestions on what to do whenever you notice your kid having difficulty showing up in competition. And why mental training awareness is better when started young. 

Getting Ready For Mental Training

This question comes from a mom/assistant coach who is concerned about her 8-year-old daughter. Her daughter is a softball player and while her mom notices her being great at practice, her daughter doesn’t show her skills in games. The Elite Competitor Program is an option but because of her daughter’s age, she’s worried that her daughter might not be ready yet. 

I’m sure that many sports moms can relate to this scenario. If your daughter is between 6 to 9 years old, then it’s true that she might not be ready for a full-blown mental program like ECP.

Not quite yet.

You have to introduce your daughter first to the benefits of mental training. The earlier you start preparing her for mental training, the better.

There are roles that you’re responsible for to assist your daughter in mental training. 

  • Shape the environment
  • Provide opportunities 

But before that, you need to understand why mental training awareness is best started young.

Why You Should Start Young

Sooner or later, all athletes will realize that it will all comes down to their mindset. Some will learn about it the hard way, and others are going to learn a little bit easier. The easy way is when they grow in an environment that helps them to realize that if they want to be great, they have to have a foundation of confidence & belief in themselves.

We’ve had athletes coming through The Elite Competitor Program that were already struggling. They’ve waited long enough to figure out the importance of mental training. They have spent a long time struggling and believing negative thoughts about themselves. And it takes a little bit longer to unwind. 

Other athletes see this as their opportunity to develop their biggest competitive advantage. They see it as the difference-maker and that’s what separates them from others. 

So, we want to start the right belief young.

The belief that…

  • What you say to yourself matters
  • You can control your outcomes
  • There is nothing wrong with you if you experience nerves
  • Mistakes are necessary! 

We want these concepts to be normalized so that when 6 to 8-year-olds are ready for a program like ECP – they jump in! You don’t have to “convince” them, you don’t have to persuade..they are ready because they realize how key their mental game is. 

Simple Mental Training Strategies Moms Can Do

Strategies for athletes are best taught “out” of the actual moment where they are competing. Your support and what you can do to help would be limited once she’s there “in” the game. There’s no pausing the game and running toward your daughter to motivate her.

And that’s why “out of moment strategies” are always better. 

Set an example of the right belief, especially if you notice early signs of perfectionism in your daughter such as:

  • Not wanting to mess up 
  • People pleasing
  • Getting defensive in receiving feedback

Then, as her mom, be very aware of where you are placing your feedback and your recognition. 

We want to make sure that we are placing our praises on what she did and not on the outcome.

A few examples could sound like this.

“I can tell that you’ve been putting in the work and it’s working. I can now see it. Good job.”

We’re going to direct our recognition to what’s in her control. And how she should be proud of herself, regardless of anyone’s validation. Obviously, yes, we’re proud of her, but if she’s constantly looking for validation from us or other people, that’s where the pressure comes in. 

And so if we are making sure that we are praising and recognizing what’s in her control, she is going to detach her worth from her achievements and lower that pressure.

She’ll be able to believe that doing her best is all that matters. There will be a lot of mistakes and failures your athlete will surely face. And that’s normal. What you can do is model how you handle mistakes and imperfections in your own life.

You can show her how you forgive yourself for every mistake and how to learn from it. You can’t shame her for having those mistakes. Instead, show her that she’s not a failure and she’ll still be accepted and loved regardless of her mistakes. 

All she needs to do is take it and learn from it.

That’s how you shape your environment for her and allow her to learn through experience. Here are also some simple strategies you can start with your daughter to warm up her mental game. 

  • Have her pick one skill she wants to focus on, you can focus your recognition on the progress she made regarding that skill she’s focusing on
  • Help her calm through breathing before stepping into the game
  • Create and discover a power word or Mantra for her
  • Tell her to visualize what she wants to be

These tools will help her get ready for mental training programs like ECP. They will help her optimize her mindset. And you won’t even have to convince her to get on board with mental training or wait until she’s struggling with the wrong mindset, once you start doing these strategies. 

Let’s empower our young athletes at a young age and show them that their mind is their biggest muscle and asset in sports.


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