State of Mind: Moving young athletes forward
By Greg Bach
When game days, tournaments and meets roll around, young athletes are going to bring an incredibly mixed bag of thoughts and emotions to the competition.
For many, their confidence may be razor thin if they failed to deliver their last time out or if they endured one of those weeks of practice where nothing seemed to be clicking for them.
So it’s natural for young athletes to harbor fears of failing; fears of disappointing their parents; fears of letting down their teammates; or even fears of not fulfilling their private aspirations.
“For starters, I think that we’re a society of, ‘Get rid of it, get rid of it, stop thinking that,’” says former Olympic swimmer and 2008 NCAA Female Swimmer of the Year Caroline Burckle. “And while it’s true that you can snap out of things, you also have to be aware of your thoughts and where they are coming from. In my opinion, that is the biggest area for growth right now. We’ve got to change the culture surrounding, ‘Stop thinking that.’ Because the second somebody hears stop, they think of something negative.”
Instead, fire up conversations about it with your athletes. If you can explore those thoughts and have open dialogue about them, guess what happens? Athletes will most likely become less fearful; they’ll recognize their fears for what they are, and won’t allow them to affect them as negatively as they may have in the past.
“What are you thinking and why are you thinking it?” Burckle says. “It’s acknowledging that it’s okay that people have those thoughts and fears, instead of trying to push them out so quickly. It’s important to acknowledge that your feelings are valid, but you don’t live in that state of mind. You move forward.”
Burckle is co-founder of RISE Elite Athletes, a sports psychology-based approach to mindfulness and personal success in both sports and life.
She is one of 50 coaches featured in SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL COACHING, which features tips and insights from well-known professional and college coaches, and top athletes who now coach.
The book can be purchased through the Square One Publishers website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or through your local bookstore.
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion Briana Scurry, author of MY GREATEST SAVE, on managing challenging moments and what young athletes in all sports can do to navigate them and stay focused on the present
Ryan Gareis, former University of South Carolina standout and current forward for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League, on bringing energy, enthusiasm and a team-first mentality at all times
Orlando Pride midfielder Chelsee Washington, founder of 90/10 Performance Co., on helping young players manage mindsets and build confidence from within to perform at their best
Erica Suter, former soccer standout at Johns Hopkins University and author of THE STRONG FEMALE ATHLETE, on helping female athletes enhance confidence, reduce injuries, and boost performance