Athletes need resiliency; here’s how to build it

One of the traits of legendary athletes is that they usually had to overcome multiple obstacles along the way. That ability to overcome setbacks is part of the trait we call resiliency. As a parent or coach, you can take steps to help athletes develop this quality. After all, you know they will need it eventually.

What Is Resilience

Resilience is not about avoiding obstacles, it’s about what we do when they happen.  It’s that ability to bounce back when there is a setback.  Challenges in an athlete’s path will cause feelings that are uncomfortable, stressful and can be painful, but to be successful they must continue to move forward.

Some of the attributes you’ll see in an athlete who is resilient include:

  • Heightened problem-solving approach to obstacles
  • An ability to bounce back after setback
  • A generally positive outlook on life
  • An ability to manage strong emotions and stress with a clear mind

Resiliency doesn’t have to be left to chance.  It is a trait that can be nurtured. Parents and coaches can help athletes with key steps in developing resiliency.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

How to Help Athletes Build Resilience

As a coach or parent, you are often in a position to help frame how the athlete approaches a problem.  While it is something the athlete must experience and deal with personally, those around them can help them explore how they view the setback.

Start in the Past

Revisiting past experiences can be a good place to start.  This can be used to show the athlete where they have previously navigated obstacles before them.  This can positively impact how they interpret the uncomfortable feelings they may be experiencing and envision a way past them.

Ask: What challenges have I overcome in the past?  Finding past success can help lead to a positive outlook and show a path to forward.  Past experience might also provide insight into the strategies that helped.

Ask: Where do you get support and success from?  Most athletes will have someone or somewhere they turn for help.  Can they build on this more and focus on their potential sources of strength instead of an obstacle or perceived weakness?

AskWhat makes you feel energized and optimistic?  It may be connecting with a specific person, going for a run, or playing a game. The key is to find a way to see the bigger picture, so you’re less overwhelmed with the details of a stressful situation.

Build Toward the Future

Along with looking for past success and creating a positive framework, athletes need to develop the skills to deal with obstacles when they occur.  Daily habits can fuel someone’s resilience and are opportunities to build skills, before bigger problems arise.

Nurture strong bonds.  Having a sense of community and support from family, friends and team members can create a stable foundation they need if a problem arises.

Focusing on solutions.  Problem solving is a trait that can be practiced daily.  It’s a lot easier to focus on solving a big problem, when you’ve been practicing this mindset on lots of small problems along the way.

Focus on small goals. When an athlete has big dreams and goals it can be inspiring and fuel them.  However, when things get hard or go wrong those same big goals can start to make it seem impossible.  Adding smaller manageable steps along the way can assist an athlete having a proactive outlook, instead of one of being a victim.

RELATED: How To Meditate to Optimize Your Life and Performance

Resiliency for Success

Resiliency is a trait we appreciate in athletes in part because, we all know overcoming obstacles is part of life.  Whether it’s sport, school, career, or relationships, life will throw some road bumps in the way.  The resiliency to get back up and overcome setbacks is always a key to success.



youth training and specialization



The debate over specializing in a single sport at an early age isn’t a debate. The ones who think you should specialize in one sport are parents who mean well but, who are uninformed.

The 2017 NFL draft just helped reinforce that fact.

In the 2017 NFL draft, teams put their money behind multi-sport athletes, showing that the idea of young athletes giving up other sports to just play football was a bad idea. Take a look at the numbers;
• 30 of the 32 players were multi-sport athletes in high school.
• All of the top 20 played at least 2 sports.
• 14 of the players played 3 sports in high school.
• 92% of the 107 players taken in rounds 1 through 3 were multi-sport athletes.

Yes, there are some sports where you will have to specialize early to be elite. Think about gymnastics or figure skating for example. However, in team sports, such as football, this is not the case. Yes, you probably need to be exposed to the sport or develop some of the skills early, but you don’t need to give up every other sport and just play one.

It’s understandable how people could think early specialization would be good.

How is a parent, or a maybe a local travel coach supposed to know better? There is a popular myth about having to specialize for 10,000 hours to be elite. On the surface, it also seems to make sense that if you start specializing in one skill early, you’ll be better at it. Then there are the fears of falling behind or getting shut out if you take time to do another sport.

What a lot of individuals do not know is that team sports and athletic development is far more complex and dynamic. We have motor learning, motivation, repetitive injuries, movement dysfunction, cognitive development and just plain fun that all need to be part of this equation.

Some will, of course, continue to make the case for picking one sport early. The science of development and motivation, the experience of successful coaches, and the choices of NFL teams, all say “don’t specialize!” Instead, go play multiple sports if you want to increase your chances of having an athletic career.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

fixed mindset vs growth mindset

How a growth mindset helps build great athletes.

We see certain athletes that can get through numerous obstacles, but how are they doing that? What allows them to work through practices, failures, learn new skills and continue to grow? It all comes back to their mindset, and mentally how they are working through these obstacles.

There are also those athletes that are incredibly skilled and talented, but seem to have the mental resilience of a peanut. They seem to crumble with any setback or pressure that comes their way.

It all comes back to their mindset, and mentally how they are working through these obstacles.

How do you help build the right mindset in a young athlete? We want them to strive, to compete, to work hard, but we don’t want their entire self-worth tied to winning or losing.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

Mindset and learning

A really powerful answer comes in the concept of a “growth mindset” as proposed by Stanford professor Dr.Carol Dweck. The premise is that there are two basic mindsets that people use in the “talent” paradigm, fixed and growth.  A fixed mindset can limit effort and development while a growth mindset can enhance it.  Importantly, a growth mindset can be taught and fostered.

Fixed Mindset

Those with a fixed mindset believe that talents and abilities are “fixed” by genetics, chance, or other circumstances, and can’t be changed through any means.  They believe they are born with a specific amount of talent. In their mind failure at a task or skill is proof they don’t have enough talent.

People with a fixed mindset often resist challenges that could results in failure because they don’t want others to see this “proof” of lack of talent, or don’t want to acknowledge it themselves.  Challenges are viewed negatively, not as a chance for growth.

Growth Mindset

On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset believes that their actions and efforts can change their abilities. Basically, they believe working at something can help them get better. Because of this a failure or set back aren’t proof of their inferiority, but a natural part of learning.

Practical Mindset Coaching Take-Aways

  • Praise effort not ability.  This is critical in working with young athletes. It relates directly to the point below.
  • Teach that skills are primarily learned through work, not through talent. I thoroughly believe there are minimum thresholds of “talent” you need to succeed in sports. Still, after almost 20 years of coaching I have seen so much talent wasted on individuals who give up because they don’t have a growth mindset. Teach them this directly. Dweck talks about the impact teaching this topic has on college students and their success rates.
  • Create an environment where it’s rewarded to push your limits even when you make mistakes. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your athletes. Freedom to make good mistakes. Mistakes that occur when they are trying to use the right technique, or a good strategic idea, or a creative play. There are lots of times when they have to push their boundaries of skill to improve, if we make these types of mistakes feared, then the athlete won’t grow.

Why Being A One-Sport Athlete Is Not A Good Thing

As a coach or parent of a youth athlete, we all want the same thing: To put them in the best position possible to be successful. We want them to have plenty of opportunities to be the best that they can be at whatever they decide to do.

Supporting your athlete is a great thing; however, sometimes that well-intentioned support can be detrimental to the athlete’s development. This applies to cases where coaches and parents pressure athletes into playing one sport. By focusing exclusively on that one sport, and even seeking private coaching, all in an attempt to get a leg up on the competition.

The Question

Should coaches and parents encourage their athletes to play only one sport or would it be better to play and develop skills across a diversity of sports?

Scenario 1

Before we can answer that question, let’s ponder this scenario: Your child enjoys math. They excel in the subject. In fact, they’ve even mentioned their desire to be a mathematician when they grow up. Does this mean your child should only learn math in school? Should they just not even bother with the other subjects like English, Science, Art, or Physical Education?

The answer is most likely, no. Instead, you’d want them to learn all of the subjects that any student their age needs in order to grow and develop.

Sports and athletics are no different from this school scenario. While focusing on one sport can get you much better at that sport, there are skills in other sports that are worth learning for any athlete.

Scenario 2

Here’s another scenario: When you’re applying for a job, what do you put on your resume? You list all of your previous experience. Employers are searching for a qualified individual with a range of experience and skills.

The number and past jobs, paired with your success in those positions, is an indicator of your quality as an employee. This same idea can be applied to sports. Playing one sport — like having one job — can limit you.

If you look at Olympic athletes, just about all of them played multiple sports early in their career before picking and focusing exclusively on one.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

Olympians dedicate their life to excelling at one sport to the point of excellence. And if you ask them, the hardest part about competing at that level of competition is burnout. Without getting into the science and psychology of burnout, suffice to say that playing one sport can, and often does, get boring for athletes. Athletes can also burnout physically — playing one sport year in and year out can take a toll on the body. Using the same muscles to complete the same actions can lead to injury and exhaustion.

The Benefits of Being a Multi-Sport Athlete:

  • helps athletes avoid burnout.
  • forces athletes to use different parts of the body and learn new movements.
  • teaches athletes how to work with different types of people, navigate different team dynamics and learn new perspectives.
  • gives the body time to physically recover from the demands of the last sport.
  • gives your mind a break, so that when you return to your sport you are excited, engaged and prepared to give it your all.

At Velocity, we believe that athletes should play as many sports as they want, and can, through high school. When an athlete is done growing, that’s the time to decide what sport to specialize in. If they do this, they will be a passionate, fierce, and well-rounded athlete.

6 Ways to Build Confidence in Young Athletes


In order for youth athletes to make it to an elite level, they have to have talent, dedication and the drive to work hard and improve their skills. While ability and work ethic are very important skills for athletes to develop, the one skill that sets elite athletes apart is confidence.

By improving one’s confidence on the court of field, it benefits all aspects of an athlete’s life. On the other hand, a lack of confidence can have devastating results for an athlete’s performance in sport and in the classroom.

As a coach or parent, we want the best for our athletes. We want them to have faith and confidence in their abilities. We want them to know what they’re capable of achieving today and, with hard work and dedication, what they’re capable of achieving tomorrow. When an athlete is confident in their abilities, they are more aggressive and generally play harder and better.

Just like physical skills, confidence is something that can be developed with practice.

Here are 6 ways to develop confidence in youth athletes to set them up for long-term success:

Lead By Example

Kids learn how to react to situations by watching their role models. For example, when a young kid trips and falls, they pause for a second or two as they try to figure out how to react. Am I ok? Should I Cry? During those few seconds they are looking at a coach or parent to gauge their response. They search for cues in the faces of their coaches or parents, and will respond accordingly. If we rush over panicked and worried, they are going to be panicked and worried. If we respond by acknowledging the fall calmly and offer a bit of encouragement— “you’re ok, it was just a fall, dust yourself off” — they will usually pop right back up. It is important for parents and coaches to be role models constantly displaying the discipline, hard work, and self-belief that you hope to see in your athlete.

Practice Makes Perfect

Confidence is based on evidence and experience, which comes from practice. Practice is the time for athletes to work on their skills. If an athlete is constantly sharpening their skills and abilities, they are constantly reinforcing faith in their capabilities.

Start Off Easy & Develop the Fundamentals

A simple way to improve confidence is to start with something easy. For example, if you’re teaching someone how to hit a baseball for the first time, you won’t start by pitching a fastball from the pitcher’s mound. You wouldn’t do this, because it simply won’t be fun for a new player to constantly swing and miss. Instead, start them off hitting from a tee. They can learn how to keep their eye on the ball and make firm contact. As they get better, you can try tossing the ball under hand to them from a few feet away. Finally, as their skills continue to develop and their confidence grows, you can move back to the pitcher’s mound.

Break It Down

Anything you do well becomes enjoyable. That is the idea for starting on the tee and developing the fundamentals from the last example. It is important for coaches to break down the skills so the athlete can understand what they need to do. Once they have consistently shown that they have mastered the fundamentals off the tee, they will get bored of the tee. Once they get bored, a coach will introduce a slightly more complicated skill to develop. Putting in the time and working on the basics doesn’t appear glamorous — but athletes who constantly sharpen their skills, sharpen their confidence. MLB players warm up the same way by starting on the tee to make sure their fundamentals are dialed in and they are confident before they hit live.

Focus On Doing Your Best

In sport, the objective is to win. But the desire to win shouldn’t take away from an athlete’s most important goal: doing your best. The best team or player doesn’t always win, it’s the team that plays the best that wins. As coaches and parents we have to let our athletes know that there is no shame in losing if you do your best. Sometimes its bad luck, or sometimes the opponent is just better than you. If you know during practice that you put your best effort into learning and mastering the fundamentals, and focusing on doing your best instead of being the best, the wins will come as long as you play hard.

“Don’t Fear Failure”

Lastly, and perhaps more important, teach kids not to be afraid of failure. Confidence in youth athletes comes down to the battle between faith and fear. Fear of failure can really destroy an athlete’s confidence even to a point where they don’t want to participate so they don’t make any mistakes. As a coach, we have to recognize when athletes are afraid and nervous. When we recognize this, we must empower them, we must offer words of encouragement and remind them of their abilities. Understanding fear is the best skill you can teach a young athlete. Fear of failure holds us back from being the best we can be — not just in sport, but in all areas of our lives.