As you try to instill grit and perseverance in young athletes, you will likely be met with some resistance. Whether it’s a sport that your athlete doesn’t instantly excel at, a team where he or she doesn’t quite fit in, or teammates who are finding more success, there are countless situations in sport that will test your athlete’s dedication and determination.
Here are four ways to encourage an athlete to push through the tough times and find his or her pace when working toward their sport goals on a team.
Sometimes an athlete feels frustrated because he or she isn’t meeting the goals set at the beginning of the season. Don’t ignore a struggling athlete or brush them aside with a casual ‘things will turn around soon.’
A coach’s role in this case is to help the athlete reassess what’s working and what isn’t working in the athlete’s training. Studies have shown that for young athletes, a coach’s role is the assignment of more (or less) specific training. Does the athlete need extra skills practice, or more time working on sprints?
When you see your athlete getting frustrated at their slow progress toward their goals, help them re-evaluate, get more specific, and redefine their goal within new parameters to create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive) goals for themselves.
Remind athletes that it’s okay to not instantly be successful at a new sport. A fixed mindset, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is one where a person believes that he or she has a set amount of talent. For a young athlete, that might mean thinking, ‘I am good at baseball,’ only after they score a home run, or ‘I am bad at volleyball’ after missing a serve. In a fixed mindset, Dweck writes, “Effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort.”