Youth athletes are busy.
Between the commitments that come with school, sports, family and friends, the days can fly by in a blur. These hectic schedules often leave young athletes little time to step back and examine if they’re on the right path for success.
While working hard and giving great effort are certainly important to success, the recipe is more complicated than that. A report from the National Science Foundation can help us fill in some keys to success many young athletes may be overlooking.
The report, which reviewed 61 studies on the topic of success, sought to find a link between competencies and collegiate academic performance. The report found three core elements correlated to greater success across disciplines and regardless of factors like the students’ test scores or socioeconomic status. While the report focused on academic success, I believe these elements are also incredibly important to both personal and team sports success. Let’s take a closer look at these three elements and explain how an athlete might go about mastering them.
1. Set Articulable Personal Goals and Values
The first step in taking your goals from concept to concrete is writing them down. I also believe that writing down your personal values is the first step in getting them from your heart to your mind. When you know who you are and what you’re after, and have articulated it in written form, it’s a lot easier to live those truths.
Start by writing down three to five core values that embody who you are. Next, write down three to five goals you have. Once these are written down, keep whatever they’re on and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every single day.
For your core values, these are probably already some of your strengths, so don’t lose what makes you who you are. Instead, maximize them. Live your core values to the fullest.
For your goals, you want them to be lofty enough that you must think about what it’ll take to achieve them. Work backwards to re-engineer how you’ll achieve these goals, down to daily tasks. Highlight two to three of those tasks to execute every day. The goal is consistency. Get consistent, then add more.
If you have a bad day or a tough lose, pull this document out and remind yourself what a bad ass you really are. Then, get back to work!
2. Enable a Growth Mindset
You’ve probably heard this buzz-worthy term before. It was popularized by Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. When I had a chance to ask Dr. Dweck about the greatest misconception in her work around mindset, she told me it’s a lack of attention to the fixed mindset. This video explains the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset:
In recognizing tasks and moments where we begin to engage in a fixed mindset, that we can shift to a growth mindset. Do you ever catch yourself having thoughts like “I’ll always suck at this,” or “I’ll never be as good as so-and-so, so why bother?” Those are times where we’re engaging in a fixed mindset.
Recognize times when criticism is really teaching, when obstacles are really challenging to grow, and when a little more effort will lead to greater results. Find mental or physical challenges that push your comfort level, push your patience, and push you to become more. Each week, pick one or two things that you can try to approach with a better mindset. It won’t suddenly make challenging tasks feel like a piece of cake, but over time, you’ll be amazed at what a growth mindset can help you achieve.
3. Develop a Sense of Belonging
Great teams don’t have outliers. Everyone has a role, everyone contributes and everyone belongs. Great athletes and coaches always ask me, how do I get my team or teammates to commit more?
The key I tell them is something I learned from author Jon Gordon: You must put connection before commitment. Like most marriages, we ensure a great connection before we engage to commitment. Great teams are rooted in great relationships. Trust, and I’m talking about 24/7, on-and-off the court or field type trust is what is needed. When we trust the coaches and teammates around us, we will allow them to push us. Teammates need to be pushed, but pushing without purposeful relationships will limit our ability to do so. Get to know your teammates better, and you’ll get a better understanding of what pushes them.
Photo Credit: miodrag ignjatovic/iStock