When children first begin playing pee-wee sports, the best athletes almost always excel because of their natural physical advantages in size, speed, quickness, and agility (Sport Success 360). Having a genetic “leg up” often provides an immediate built-in advantage for some kids early in their careers, allowing them to excel on the field (sometimes even dominating the competition). In these instances where kids become “instant stars” because they can do things in sports the other kids can’t, their mental toughness often goes untested because they rarely have to deal with stress, adversity, frustration, and failure. In other words, why bother to improve something (mental toughness) they really don’t seem to need?
As kids continue with their athletic careers into their teen years, however, most soon realize they will no longer be able to to simply “lace ’em up” and dominate the competition. Instead, many of these kids are dealt their first real sports adversities, prompting them to test their resiliency and stress recovery abilities. Kids who develop their mental toughness usually overcome adversities and maximize their athletic careers, while others struggle with the new discovery that their natural physical gifts may no longer be enough.
Advancing to the “next” level…
With each skill level advancement in sports, there are greater challenges to overcome in order to be successful. Of course, athletes will need to continue to develop their physical abilities, but since the competition is also focusing on physical development, the need for mental toughness becomes even more important and meaningful. By the high school level, almost everyone is good, making mental toughness the difference-maker in most sport competitions.
Mental toughness is what is needed to maintain a high level of self-confidence, sharp focus, and the ability to quickly bounce back from stress, adversity, and failure. Some athletes struggle with their mental toughness, leading to poor coping skills and a negative attitude- which actually ends up hindering their natural physical abilities and athletic potential.
Mentally tough kids believe they can win and as a result play to win, compared to playing to avoid losing. This may seem like a subtle difference, but when the competition increases and there are more experiences with frustration, anger, and losing, having a positive and forward-thinking mindset is key — and makes all the difference when it comes to advancing in sports.
Mind of Steel is designed to help young athletes develop mental toughness, and our Sport Performance Assessment line of apps to the right of today’s article are designed to help you measure your progress!