In this paper, we describe the development and content of a mental skills training (MST) program and how a strength and conditioning coach/certified mental coach delivered this program within a United States Tennis Association (USTA) Player Development (PD) program. The purpose of the MST program was to create resilient, confident youth tennis competitors. Specific mental strategies (i.e., journaling, routines, breathing, imagery, self-talk) were identified to best meet the objectives of the MST program and were delivered using a three-pronged approach: (a) classroom lessons, (b) strength and conditioning sessions and on-court lessons, and (c) homework assignments. Specific ways that the USTA PD coaches reinforced the use of these strategies during tennis practice are described. Recommendations for coaches to integrate an MST program in high-performance youth sport environments are also provided.
E. Earlynn Lauer, Mark Lerman, Rebecca A. Zakrajsek, and Larry Lauer
Johannes Raabe, E. Earlynn Lauer, and Matthew P. Bejar
Mental toughness (MT) enables individuals to thrive in demanding situations; however, current conceptualizations of MT are primarily based on research with elite adult athletes. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to explore youth sport coaches’ perceptions of mentally tough adolescent athletes with whom they have worked. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with 14 youth sport coaches (nine men and five women). Using a hermeneutic process, a thematic structure comprising five themes was developed: (a) Youth athletes demonstrate their MT by overcoming various obstacles, (b) mentally tough youth athletes are highly self-determined with respect to their sport participation, (c) mentally tough youth athletes control their emotions in competition, (d) mentally tough youth athletes focus on aspects that facilitate their performance, and (e) mentally tough youth athletes are good teammates. These findings not only complement existing conceptualizations of MT but also highlight important distinctions in the manifestation of the construct in early to middle adolescents.
Rebecca A. Zakrajsek, E. Earlynn Lauer, and Kimberly J. Bodey
Youth sport has traditionally focused on developing athletes physically, technically, and tactically; however, it is important to consider the purposeful development of mental and emotional sport skills for these competitors. Youth athletes experience various stressors within their sport participation that impact their ability to successfully manage the sport environment. Youth sport coaches have a tremendous influence on their athletes and are in a position to help them develop the necessary skills to effectively confront the stress they experience. In addition, the International Sport Coaching Framework identifies six primary functions of coaches to help “fulfil the core purpose of guiding improvement and development” of youth athletes (International Council for Coaching Excellence, 2013, p. 16). This article outlines the developmental stage considerations for working with youth athletes and a tool coaches can use to integrate mental skills development strategies into sport practices. Utilizing the evidence-based steps within this article fosters a holistic and developmentally appropriate approach to performance enhancement and personal development, as both are important objectives for youth sport coaches.
Terilyn C. Shigeno, E. Earlynn Lauer, Leslee A. Fisher, Emily J. Johnson, and Rebecca A. Zakrajsek
Though commonly emphasized by parents, coaches, and youth sport organizations, relatively little research exists with regard to morality in youth sport. In this Insights paper, we utilize Shields and Bredemeier’s 12-component model of moral action to help coaches become aware of how sport contextual influences, personal competencies, and ego-processing variables influence the moral behavior of their athletes. With insight from conversations with youth sport coaches, in addition to empirical and professional practice evidence, we provide coaches with three practical strategies they can use to: (a) consider how morality fits into their coaching philosophy, (b) create moral group norms within their teams, and (c) integrate moral decision-making into their practice plans.
Danielle C. DeLisio, E. Earlynn Lauer, Terilyn C. Shigeno, Leslee A. Fisher, and Rebecca A. Zakrajsek
Mental performance consultants in training need to be prepared to respond to the various ethical dilemmas they may encounter, including sexual misconduct. Sexual harassment (i.e., unwanted attention of a sexual nature that may create an uncomfortable environment) is a form of sexual misconduct that has increased dramatically in the general U.S. population. In this paper, the authors provide a composite narrative from the point of view of the “victim” of sexual harassment (i.e., a neophyte mental performance consultant) while consulting with a high school team. Then, the authors examine and interpret the narrative in light of four complicating factors: (a) gender identity and other demographics, (b) context, (c) training and experience, and (d) handling/reporting incidents of sexual harassment. Finally, the authors pose questions for readers related to each complication and present implications for sport psychology students and faculty.