The importance of mindset for young athletes

The importance of mindset for young athletes

My 11 year old son has played rugby league since he was 5 years old. When we moved to a new area at the beginning of last year he disovered that most of his new friends played soccer so he wanted to give it a go for the first time. No problem. He enjoyed soccer but this year he decided to go back to rugby league (much to my delight lol).

About a month ago he started throwing around the idea of returning to soccer. I knew the reason why but I wanted him to be able to verbalise the reason himself. When asked why he would just respond with “Because I just want to go back to soccer”. I left it and gave him time to gather his thoughts before I pressed on with “What is the REAL reason you want to go back to soccer?” and just as I thought, he felt he wasn’t getting ball enough in the game.

He had joined a team who had played together since they were in U6’s and they all knew each other. It’s an age where everyone wants the ball and wants to score tries. What an awesome feeling it is when you score a try for your team so why wouldn’t you want to hold onto the ball yourself and run for your life. He was disheartened and it showed in his effort and performance on the field. This is where shifting his mindset became my goal. Mindset plays a huge role in a young athlete’s view of themselves, the game, the team and ultimately how they perform.

Without trying to fix it or jumping up and down about it or telling him that that was life, we had a casual conversation about his role in the team. I wanted to shift his mindset.  I explained that getting the ball isn’t the only part of the game. We thought about a few key aspects of the game that he could do at the very next game to improve his participation.

He decided he would focus on backing up his team mate with the ball. He would achieve this by running with the ball carrier to support him and being available if the opportunity to offload the ball presented itself. I suggested he incorporate little things to boost his mood such running back to get onside instead of walking and not getting there in time for the play and to verbally encourage his team mates on the field for good plays etc. I also reminded him that tackling and stopping tries were just as important as scoring them.

I watched him make an effort to include these aspects into the very next game. He ran back to get onside, he approached every one of his team mates who scored a try to give them a pat on the back regardless of where on the field he had to run from and he supported the ball carrier at every opportunity he got.

I watched his whole energy change. He went from a negative ‘I never get the ball’ attitude to being involved in the game and being much more positive. In the first game of trying out these tactics, he was in a great supporting position to receive an offload and this encouraged him further. When his energy and performance improved due to his mindset, it was noticed by his team mates and he became more available to pass the ball to. He scored a try in each of the 3 subsequent games, kicked a conversion, got Man of the Match in one game and received lots of encouragement from other parents.

He’s enjoying the game so much more now and this all came from shifting his mindset. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

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