Integrating Mental Skills and Strategies Into Youth Sport Training: A Tool for Coaches

in International Sport Coaching Journal
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  • 1 University of Tennessee
  • | 2 Indiana State University
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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.

Rebecca A. Zakrajsek is an assistant professor of sport psychology in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies at The University of Tennessee. Her research interests include ways sport psychology consultants can work effectively with and through coaches to contribute to athletes’ optimal performance and development. She is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.

E. Earlynn Lauer is a doctoral candidate and graduate teaching associate in the sport psychology/motor behavior specialization in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies at The University of Tennessee. Her research interests focus on working with youth sport psychology professionals and coaches to integrate mental skills training in youth sports.

Kimberly J. Bodey is a professor of sport management in the College of Health & Human Services at Indiana State University. She has numerous publications and presentations regarding training youth sport coaches, and has strongly advocated for required coach education. Her research interests include training sport administrators and coaches on how to incorporate life skill development in the youth sport experience.

Address author correspondence to Rebecca Zakrajsek at
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