Mental Blocks in young athletes are more common than we think. Kids should be taught to overcome these mental blocks by first recognizing that there is a conscious (cognitive) mind and the unconscious (automatic) mind.
The unconscious mind is a hard one to manipulate. The conscious mind can be helped by a sports psychologist, parent, teacher or coach who can help the student athlete learn how to give directions to the unconscious mind to overcome these mental blocks. The goal is to be focused, calm, determined, and confident under pressure.
I do believe that mental toughness can be taught and mental blocks can be overcome. Keep in mind that most young athletes start out loving their sport. When it becomes a source of anxiety and stress, it is time to teach mental toughness or perhaps look for another sport or join the band. If the game gets too serious at too young an age, there is a huge risk for burnout and leaving the sport for good.
Speed, size, strength matter most – or do they?
Sports devotees have become obsessed with velocity, speed, size, strength, and performance – in all sports. Part of this culture of sports intensity and “enhanced” performance comes from television and video games where children are watching their sports heroes perform amazing, superhuman in some cases, feats. They also see spectacular wipeouts, but the hero is the super fit athlete without any mental blocks, of course.
Don’t get me wrong. I think athletes make great role models for kids because they make a living being fit, healthy, strong, and disciplined. A great role model should be great on and off the playing field. Learning how to eliminate mental blocks is part of being a great role model. As a general rule, athletes and the athletic lifestyle are admirable examples of how your kids can love to play, love life, and avoid injury.