How to Play Higher-Ranked Teams

Helping Athletes Play Higher-Ranked Teams

Mentally Prepare to Compete Against Higher-Ranked Teams

The main mental ingredient in upset victories is belief. By belief, we’re not just talking about pie-in-the-sky belief, but belief steeped in reality.

The first step in understanding belief is to know the effect of a lack of belief.

Young athletes who lack belief constantly experience doubts such as “How can we beat them? That team is undefeated!” or “How is victory even possible when that athlete is ranked No. 1?”

When a team or its athletes don’t believe they have a chance for victory, their preparation, confidence, effort and focus will fall significantly below 100%. 

After all, why would an athlete be fully committed if they believe a loss is a certainty?

To build belief, young athletes need a mixture of work, effort, preparation, confidence, positive self-talk and mental toughness:

  • Work – Developing sports kids’ mental and technical skills to their fullest helps build trust in kids’ ability to compete.
  • Effort—When young athletes put maximum effort into training sessions, they know they can produce the same level of effort in competition.
  • Preparation – Out-preparing opponents, mentally and physically, gives kids a significant edge heading into the competition.
  • Confidence – To beat the best, athletes must have the confidence they can compete on the opponent’s level.
  • Self-Talk – Belief requires athletes to send themselves positive messages that enhance performance, competitiveness and production.
  • Mental Toughness – Kids need to build their mental toughness to the point that they know they can overcome any adversity that comes their way.

Building belief is the first step in athletic success…

During the 2024 March Madness NCAA tournament, No. 14 Oakland University upset No. 3 seed Kentucky, 80-76, in the first round. However, Oakland didn’t see the win as an upset.

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe stressed the team members believed in themselves, no matter who they faced.

“We wanted Kentucky because they’re the best,” Kampe said.

Kampe fueled his team’s beliefs throughout the game with consistent positive messages, such as, “We win close games.”

Oakland guard Jack Gohlke, who made ten three-pointers, reaffirmed the team’s level of belief when he exclaimed after the game, “We’re not a Cinderella.”

Even if other people believe a youth sports team is the “Cinderella,” kids don’t have to buy into that opinion. Athletes are the only ones who know what they do behind the scenes to prepare. 

Nobody sees the work young athletes put in to compete against the very best… and nobody’s belief matters except for the athlete’s.

Crafting a winning mental game starts with building a positive belief system.

Every day, during training sessions, sports kids have the opportunity to build belief in their game. Their thoughts and actions either add to or detract from their belief level.

Kids can be empowered by choosing thoughts and actions that boost their belief in themselves.

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The Confident Sports Kid

Help Athletes Improve Confidence

When kids lack confidence, they doubt themselves, stop taking risks, play tentatively, and are hard on themselves. As a result, kids often lose their motivation to improve. Ultimately, these barriers keep them from enjoying sports and making the most of their physical talent.

The Confident Sports Kid” program is actually two programs: one that teaches sports parents how to boost their kids’ confidence, and another that teaches young athletes age 8 to 18 how to improve their self talk, avoid negative thinking, overcome expectations that limit confidence, and much more. The program will help kids boost their confidence in sports and life…and enjoy sports more.

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