By Katie McKee
As you know, we are in unprecedented times with COVID-19, where seasons and school years have been postponed or canceled, gathering in groups and team practices isn’t an option, everyone is working from home, and we have some extra time on our hands. Kids have now become online students, which might leave some extra time during the day to keep physical and mental skills sharp, obviously from a distance.
All things considered, this is a great time to practice and fine-tune mental skills, so I wanted to put together some ideas that youth athletes can do during this time to keep their mental game strong so when sports and normalcy do return, they can feel like they haven’t lost a step. With guidance from you, parents and guardians, below are a few ideas you can have your kids try out.
Imagery Practice: Draw your favorite memories from a game or practice
- Step 1: Be as detailed as you can and draw everything you can remember from that experience, including what/who you saw, what was happening around you, and what you were doing. Use colors or keep it black and white.
- Step 2: Once the drawing is finished, write down words and phrases around the picture that describe what you remember thinking and feeling (emotions), smelling, hearing, and even tasting (like Gatorade or gum).
- Step 3: Lastly, share with your parent/guardian, or another family member, what is going on in the picture and the things you described thinking, feeling, seeing, tasting, smelling and hearing.
The purpose of this exercise is the beginning stages of imagery and allowing the child to connect the senses with the images. With detailed practice, this activity will go along way to developing their imagery skills and can become a very useful tool for them.
Confidence Building: What are my strengths as a player
- Step 1: Write down your strengths in your sport. These can be single word answers or short phrases. For example, “good communicator” or “strong on the ball”.
- Step 2: For every strength written down from step 1, describe it in more detail. What makes you a good communicator? What makes you strong on the ball? What do those things look like?
The purpose of this exercise is to help the child identify what they are good at and be able to use those things to contribute to their self-confidence.
Goal Setting: Areas for Improvement
- Step 1: Write down a few things you want to get better at. The key here is to be detailed. For example, “I want to get better at juggling with both feet,” or “I want to get better get better at my chest traps and bringing the ball down to my foot”.
- Step 2: Figure out a way to practice your goals a little bit every day at home this week. For example, “I will juggle for 10 minutes everyday using both feet,” or “I will do 15 chest traps bringing the ball down to my foot every day”.
- Step 3: Keep a log. Write down your progress, high scores, and low scores, and check-in at the start of each week to make adjustments to your goals. One week you might be doing ten juggles, the next you might be doing 12 or 15!
- Step 4: Make it a little competitive! Virtually challenge your friends, or set up a time every day that you are doing these skills at the same time. While social distancing remains incredibly important right now, get creative and set up virtual hangouts to do these skills together.
Goal setting is a great skill to help kids get excited about improvement and progress. By setting weekly goals and checking in with them regularly, we are teaching youth that goals can always be adjustable, adaptable, and fun.
For the time being, I’ve presented these mental skills in a simple format. If you have questions or need more guidance about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We are in this together. Stay safe and healthy everyone!
Katie McKee, M.A., is a Mental Performance Consultant and AYSO coach in the Redondo Beach, Ca area. She works with players, teams, coaches, and parents on the mental side of performance. For more information or to get in touch with Katie, please visit her website www.mindfit-performance.com