Mind Over Matter: Helping Your Athletes Prepare for Tryouts
Tryouts, evaluations, auditions, selections, whatever you call it, the evaluation and assessment process for making a competitive youth sports team can be daunting, and let’s face it, a little nerve-wracking for young athletes. To help your athletes perform their best at tryouts, we’ve put together 6 strategies athletes can use to prep for tryouts, calm their nerves and tap into the competitive mindset.
Practice, practice, practice
This may seem obvious, but practicing the technical skills you expect the club to evaluate players on is an important part of tryout preparation. By committing technical skills to memory, athletes will be able to think less about what they are doing, and just perform and react based on muscle memory. Practice and repetition are critical components of helping athletes build confidence in themselves before tryouts, knowing this is something they’ve already done time and time again.
Have your athlete practice visualization techniques, imagining themselves completing the passes, saving goals, or scoring points on the field or court at tryouts. Visualization techniques are a powerful tool to help your athlete see themselves positively and get prepared for the big day and imagine themselves having success in their endeavors.
According to Peak Sports, “When athletes visualize or imagine a successful competition, they actually stimulate the same brain regions as you do when you physically perform that same action. Athletes who use visualization can eliminate some of the unknowns that create competitive anxiety.”
Encourage your athletes to practice visualizing themselves at tryouts and completing the right plays regularly in the weeks leading up to tryouts.
Take a deep breath
For athletes who tend to feel more nervous during tryouts, quieting the mind with breathwork is a great way to calm the nerves and refocus energy towards playing. Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is a breathing exercise that can help with stress, relaxation and mindset.
How-to practice diaphragmatic breathing
- Sit upright in a chair, or lie down on the floor with your knees bent. Close your eyes and visualize your shoulders melting away from your ears.
- Place the hand that you write with beneath your navel and the other hand just above your navel.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose into your hand just below your navel. Allow this area to fill like a balloon. Next, feel your rib cage, where your other hand is, expand as the middle portion of the lungs are filled. Finally, fill the upper third of the lungs.
- Exhale slowly, contracting your belly as you breathe out.
- Keep your focus on each inhale and exhale.
- Repeat for five to 10 minutes and then go about your regular workout.
Mind over matter
Mind over matter they always say. And according to Jim Taylor Ph.D. and Psychology Today, there are three mindsets high performing athletes tap into that help them achieve their competitive goals: clear mindset, calm mindset, and aggressive mindset. Check out each of these and how they can be implemented here.
Focus on the now
Sports psychologist Dr. Stan Beecham, recommended staying as present as possible to perform your best in an interview with Forbes, “When the mind goes to the future, you quit performing at your best, so what we know about when human beings are at their best, they don’t go forward in the future. They don’t go backward in the past. They stay present, and the mind gets really quiet, and you function optimally.”
For your young athletes, this means not focusing on the outcome as much as focusing on being present and playing during tryouts. Focusing on the outcome can lead to distractions during the session and could impact how they play. Remind your kids to control what they can control, which are their actions now and not what happens in the future.
Keep the outcome in perspective
Sports evaluations can be a high-pressure situation for your athlete. For many kids, sports are a big part of their identity so the possibility of not making the team is scary! Make sure to emphasize that while these tryouts are important, they aren’t everything and that it’s okay if they don’t make the team. Not making a team or losing is always a big learning opportunity and is a part of life. Regardless if they make the team or not, let them know that they are enough. Help them take the news in stride, focus on where they can improve their game for the future and turn this into a positive experience.
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