When sports kids believe they can achieve a goal, they build confidence to go after that goal.
When they have unshakeable confidence, they are more resilient, overcome obstacles and increase the likelihood of accomplishing their goals.
Belief, confidence and accomplishment are intertwined in youth sports. Belief sets the cycle in motion, but what creates belief?
Kids may have heard the term “seeing is believing.” This phrase refers to experience.
When young athletes are successful, they can see themselves capturing another win, another championship, another national cut or another playoff win.
What if they have NEVER won a title?
What if their team has NEVER advanced to the post-season?
What if they NEVER achieved a national cut?
How can kids believe if they have never seen themselves accomplishing a significant athletic achievement?
How can they believe without seeing? Belief is the sticking point for many athletes. The lack of belief causes many athletes to become stuck in a rut of mediocrity.
Without belief, these athletes lose confidence in their abilities. Their goal seems impractical or impossible, so they give up working for it at the first setback.
To build belief, athletes have a powerful mental tool at their disposal: visualization.
With visualization, sports kids create a mental movie or mental images of accomplishing a goal. When they regularly visualize performing successfully, they increase their belief and embed those images in their minds.
Visualization helps young athletes feel prepared to handle the pressure of the moment. When they visualize success, they build the self-confidence necessary to accomplish their goals.
Simply stated, visualization is the “seeing” that helps athletes believe in themselves.
Let’s look at the following 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament example.
Iowa defeated Louisville, 97-83, in its elite eight matchup to advance to its first Final Four since 1993. Not one player on the Iowa squad was even born when Iowa accomplished that feat.
That did not stop junior forward Caitlin Clark from believing. Clark achieved something unprecedented in Division I NCAA Tournament history by registering the first-ever 40-point triple-double.
Clark had often visualized herself winning this game, which helped her develop unshakeable confidence.
“I believed, and I visualized [being] in this press conference with a hat and a shirt around me. So here we are… I’ve dreamed of this moment since I was a little girl. I’ve always wanted to take a team to the Final Four and be in these moments and have confetti fall down on me,” she said.
Seeing is believing. Visualization gives athletes the feeling they have done it before and can do it again.
Visualization uses specific and vivid images that elicit positive emotions and builds confidence.
To help young athletes start visualizing, ask them to write down vivid details of the event they want to experience as a success.
They should use all their senses so they can immerse themselves in the experience. They should write about how they will feel after accomplishing their goal.
Vivid images leave a lasting impression on kids’ mind, so when the event arises, they will feel that they have accomplished this feat before.
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