most over looked part of youth sports is the mental side.
Parents and coaches are just happy the kids are out there. And there's an expectation that playing the sport will provide the mental skills and positive benefits alone.
This is like "playing to get in shape" which is a horrible idea. We need to get in shape in order to play.
The water polo coaches at San Jose Express try to develop a good positive attitude and the mental skills players need to be good athletes...and good people.
What are those skills we are trying to develop?
Glad you asked!
The Seven Mental Skills Youth Athletes Need to Be Successful
1. Intrinsic Desire to Play
3. Being Part of a Team
5. Goal Set
7. Manage Anxiety
Each one of these traits deserves a blog post (or a chapter in a book) but here I'd like to go over them briefly.
Intrinsic Desire to Play
There's two parts to this.
First, the desire has to come from within. If parents or coaches have to bribe the athlete to come to practice then it's not going to work. They will either quit or be miserable.
No one wants that.
Kids have to want to be there. That way they learn how to self-motivate. They feel they are part of the team...not being forced to play.
I think the coaches at SJX do a good job of bringing this out in the team. It always is something to work on.
The other part of this is "play". The athletes have to like it and have fun. If it becomes work, it becomes boring. Again, this is not what you want for your athletes or child to feel.
Fortunately, water polo by nature is fun. We hope the kids on our team have fun and learn. That way they will continue to play through high school...and beyond.
Resilience is the ability to come back from failure, frustration and disappointment. It is something that the best performers have in countless endeavors.
We will all experience failure. It is the ability to come back which is key to success. We can't be afraid of failure. We have to be willing to take chances and then come back.
I find this very relevant with the Corona virus right now. How will our team, our sport, our community come back? We all must be resilient!
3. Part of a Team
It is one thing to do something just for yourself. It is another to do it for others.
When kids feel they are part of a team, they will sacrifice more and work harder. The team will support them and encourage them to do their best.
We want our San Jose Express water polo players to feel that they are part of a team. They are part of a tribe of people that have come together to work towards the goal of being better athletes, people and players.
There are two parts to communication. The first is very practical.
To play water polo you have to talk to each other!
Most of the time your face is underwater. Your lungs are screaming at you as you're working. There's water in your eyes and some guy is dragging you underwater.
If your teammate doesn't shout out loud that you're about to receive a pass, it's most likely that you won't be able to catch it!
The other part of this is that kids have to communicate with their coaches and even their parents. Issues come up. You need to be able to express yourself.
When teams and athletes communicate, they are successful.
5. Goal Setting
Goal setting is more than just having SMART goals.
Goal setting is about individual and team goals.
It's about having a vision and a path to achieve it.
We are working on developing our goal setting program for San Jose Express. We want to be a premier youth sports program and for that to happen, our team must be able to set goals and achieve them.
Being able to visualize and mentally rehearse is a skill that goes beyond water polo and youth sports. It helps in all areas of life.
Again, along with goal setting, we are developing a program to teach these skills to our team.
We hope it becomes a life long skill that they can use in all areas of their lives.
7. Manage Anxiety
Sports and life can be stressful. It's a very tough time right now in our country.
Our kids experience a lot of stress and anxiety just living here. And they experience it playing water polo as well.
Water polo games and tournaments are stressful for everyone. It can be a good stress or it can be overwhelming. We want our team to know how to manage the stress at home...and during a game.
San Jose Express understands the importance of both physical and mental preparation.
We understand that life is more than just playing a sport.
Yet, the skills kids learn (or should learn) playing sports should apply to all areas of their lives.
We try to develop complete athletes.
Hope to see you on the deck soon!