Recently, a friend asked how necessary mental toughness is in athletes and if it could be taught. He believed an article teaching mental toughness could help athletes. I agreed but finding the key to mental toughness had to be found and ways to teach it would be necessary. I know he was correct because, in my many years of coaching youth, most of the parental concerns were about what was going on in their child's head. Statements like, "It's in her head," "He gets psyched out," "She gets so nervous," "He is never aggressive in games," and "It's mental" were very common. Each statement addressed the notion that something in the child's mind was causing them to perform poorly. After all, "They can do it in practice, but not in games," was another common statement that implied that it must be in the player's head. What I discovered is that mental toughness could be taught and that it not only could help athletes, but their parents' perception of their child's mental state, as well. In fact, the solution to their concerns was quite simple, easy to teach but not necessarily easy to attain.
Figuring out players' states of mind at particular moments is impossible, of course. After working with players whose parents thought their problem was in their head, I never failed to recognize fundamental faults that were actually preventing players from succeeding. So often, what appears to the untrained eye be the correct fundamentals are not. Once players corrected their fundamentals, greater success followed and their parents no longer thought they possessed mental blocks in their heads. Many parents began to believe their kids were actually mentally tough, and it was all due to better fundamentals. The key to developing mental toughness was all contained in the ability to better their fundamentals. Time after time, players whose fundamentals improved became more confident, more aggressive, and mentally tougher.
To answer my friend's question, mental toughness can be taught and attained. The humbling news is that improving sport fundamentals is not easy though and requires many things including the correct teaching methods, athletic talent, and quality practice time, to name a few things.
Following are recommended tips for parents to help players become fundamentally sound and automatically "mentally tough."
* Learn the fundamentals and patiently teach them to their kids.
* Have players work with respected, knowledgeable coaches.
* Use good training aids when affordable and available.
*Practice the sport for more months than just the season for the sport
There is no substitute for good fundamentals. The sooner athletes attain better fundamentals, the greater likelihood of success, which leads to the desired mental toughness development.
"Playing major league baseball - sweet; helping kids - better." Jack Perconte helps kids and their parents get through the challenging world of youth sports. He shares his playing and coaching experiences in his books, The Making of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete. Read about a compact baseball swing at: http://jackperconte.com