If you’ve watched the NCAA Basketball Tournaments like we have, you’ve heard the stories of the Cinderella teams, the long-shots and the underdogs. The teams who enter the game with the pundits thinking they don’t have a chance to win. But when players and coaches alike believe in themselves, sometimes the improbable can happen. And while it’s fun as a fan to cheer for the underdog from the comfort of your couch, this month we wondered: how do Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sport Parents mentally prepare their youth athletes for games where they are the underdog?
One of the toughest situations Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sport Parents face is a situation where young athletes are preparing to play in a game where they are considered the underdog and many fans – and maybe the athletes themselves – believe they will lose.
As Jim Thompson, Founder and CEO of Positive Coaching Alliance frequently tells athletes and coaches alike, success begins with preparation – both mentally and physically. And while athletes and coaches embrace a Mastery Approach and work on skills and techniques, Responsible Coaches also help athletes prepare for the big game with a mental approach and emotional outlook.
In his latest book, Elevating Your Game, Jim notes “Athletes without mental games do well if things go well. If not, they can’t adjust to adversity and fail to perform to their ability. But some athletes develop a mental game they can rely on when things go bad so they are not at the mercy of events. They can give their best effort when everything seems to be going wrong.”
So how do you help athletes get this mental approach? It starts with a reminder about some of the key elements of Responsible Sports:
Lastly, maybe being the underdog is actually a great position to be in for athletes and coaches. It provides an important rallying point for a group of teammates to come together. When no one believes you can, but you and your teammates believe you can, you share an emotional bond that brings you closer together and helps inspire and focus. You seek to prove “them” wrong – together. And so win or lose, the underdog team actually takes away a potent life lesson: when we trust and believe in ourselves, in our teammates, and in our preparation, great things can – and sometimes do – happen.
So to all the underdogs out there – good luck!
Do you have a powerful story of an underdog youth team rallying to beat the odds? Share it with us on Facebook. Or tell us about how you as a Responsible Coach help your athletes prepare for a tough game ahead. Or as parent, share your secrets for helping your kids separate their identity from the sport performance. We always enjoy hearing from you. And thank you for being an important part of the Responsible Sports Movement!