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Tryouts - Enjoying the Experience vs. Dreading the Outcome


Tryouts can be, well, trying, for both athlete and parent. Will I, Can I, make the team? What happens if I don't? I am going to let my parents down because they have been driving me to practices, games and provided instructor training for years. What am I going to do, then? What will friends think of me?


There are many more questions that go through an athlete's mind during this period, as well. It also gets more challenging as the athlete gets further into their careers. Not talking about college or professional careers, here, I'm talking youth careers.


The transition from the participatory period of sports (little league, rec basketball, pop warner football, house hockey programs, etc.) to travel teams, to more elite travel teams, to high school and elite travel high school leagues are all periods of transitions for athletes. Making the jump to the next level can be looked upon as a threat more so than a challenge because of the mindset of the athlete going through it.


As is true for any part of the mental game we, as mental performance coaches, lean into teaching and helping the athlete understand and zero in on the process.


Focusing in on small steps within each day's practice, within each drill you do on the field of play, within each strength or conditioning exercise you do to enhance your game, enables the athlete to:

  • Be more proactive with their confidence before competition and stable with their confidence as they hit bumps in their game.

  • Become more resilient and help withstand obstacles, work their way through mistakes and handle distractions outside of their control.

  • Stay in the present moment rather than time traveling to the past or trying to figure out the future. Staying focused on the here and now helps the athlete in that moment, which in the middle of competition, is all that matters.

  • Stay on task and be task specific. More importantly, it helps put thoughts of outcome, if not totally out of their mind, at least far enough away where it does not impact their present moment process thinking.

Staying in the moment by identifying specific process cues for your sport is key to developing a good present moment approach. Knowing your role and understanding your position is an essential first step to understanding your specific performance cues and responsibilities. Once identified, try and practice focusing in on them during practice and drills. This is true even for more individualized sports like golf and tennis. All sports come with small focal points to key on each and every play, to help you stay in the moment and play with a process oriented approach.


All of this allows for the athlete to be more at ease and helps them trust in their skillset, which is the ultimate when it comes to performance. An athlete wants to get 100% out of their physical skills that they can. The mindset can impact that greatly. If they are more at ease with themselves and trust that their body is going to do what they have been training to do, that makes for a more confident, stable, relaxed and focused athlete, who, when tryouts come are going to enjoy the challenge rather than look upon it with dread.

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