I work hard to create a youth sports performance culture that instills confidence in the athletes. Confidence comes from success – not just winning but achieving incremental goals. This is more likely and more frequent when focusing on outcomes the athletes can control. A kid cannot control how much they play. Playing time might go up if they do all the right things, but it might not, depending on the other players and the coach’s strategy, among other things. Another athlete might do all the wrong things and still see a positive result. What they can control is their own bodies, work-rate, and attention to detail. If an athlete performs exercises that require a high level of body control and co-ordination, are in an environment where they can comfortably fail, and set reasonable expectations for success, they can practice, adjust and persevere – and their bodies will catch on. These little successes almost always lead to increased performance and confidence resulting in success in their sport, but the success comes from the process, not the outcome, and the process becomes the true reward.
When setting goals, stay clear of things like making a specific team or winning a game. Rather, begin by focusing on performing an exercise correctly; something well within the athlete’s control. Then look for things like completing 15 reps at 25 pounds or even simpler: complete 2 more reps at 25 pounds than last week. As kids start to apply these extremely simple ideas and experience success at meeting their goals, their enjoyment for the process and their confidence grows.
By focusing on controllable goals I help the kids be the best version of themselves they can be. Instead of comparing yourself to your friends or your sibling or your parents, work on being the best you can be with the tools in your box. When they get in that mindset the best version of themselves is usually pretty awesome. For that reason I recommend staying away from weight-room record boards. That fosters an unnecessary competition – everyone trying to catch one leader, and inevitably only one winner. There is plenty of time to learn that lesson on the field and in life.
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