The Importance of Mental Training for Youth Athletes

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Let me ask you this question, why is it that two athletes in the same competitive situation respond and perform differently in that same situation? Why is it that some youth athletes are incredible in practice, but are non-existent in competition? Why is it that one team beats another four times in the regular season, but gets dominated by that same team in the playoffs? The answer is very simple, mindset. The athletes or teams that are practicing and talking about mindset and mental training are the ones that are going to come out on top. Most people just write the difference off based on different personalities and self-discipline, because that is the easy route. Another reason why is most youth sports coaches are not educated in mental training, they specialize in sport specific skills and concepts and ignore the mental aspect. This is something that needs to be corrected all across the board to develop better overall athletes from a young age! At the very least, organizations and teams should be bringing someone in to better help their players with the mental fortitude needed to compete at the highest level they can.

How many times have you heard coaches say, "I need you guys ready to play", "You guys have to be locked in", "Your team needs you to be present", or "Leave all the head baggage at home"? The simple fact is this is all true, but these young athletes don't know how to do that, they need to be taught, just like all of the physical skills they are honing. We can't just expect them to know how to be mentally prepared without giving them the resources.

Now let's be clear that the majority of youth athletes will not make it into the pros, so that's not what this is about. It is about keeping a kid's dream alive and helping them learn life lessons through sports. We have to be honest with ourselves, life is tough, it's competitive, so having a better handle on mindset at young age will only help ensure our children will be successful in whatever they do. Let's also not forget the academic side of things, having a better mindset will assist them with the challenges they may face throughout schooling. They will be better prepared for whatever life throws at them!

So what exactly am I talking about when I say mental training or developing a good mindset? On a very simple level, I am referring to being able to handle stressful situations, showing up ready to compete, being prepared, having a growth mindset, learning from losses or failures, and understanding the process of improving, to name a few. All of these situations or examples, we can prepare ourselves for through simple training and exposure. There are processes we can go through to improve how we react in certain situations. There are methods available to ensure we are prepared when these circumstances arise, because we all know they will at some point!

They say that it is not the situation itself that derails our performance, but our reaction to it. If we can control how we react in stressful or unknown times, we will be able to perform at a higher level and not buckle under the pressure.

At Slak CLE, our training focuses primarily on the brain, the physical side is just an added benefit! Through the research and MRI scans we have studied, we know that balance training activates the brain and coordinates the muscles to perform at optimal levels. Any athlete in any sport should be including some form of balance training into their daily routines. I would also recommend that they look into mental coaching programs to get their brain and body closer to their optimal level of performance.

Slak CLE has a Certified Mental Coach on staff and would be able to get your athlete closer to peak performance, mentally and physically!

For more information, head over to

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