Developing Mental Toughness in Young Athletes (Seminar)

I am very much looking forward to presenting my ideas on developing mental toughness at The Belfrey Golf Complex near Sutton Coldfield on June 30th. Many thanks to Steven Orr and the rest of the organising committee for the invitation to speak. My presentation (10am) will be an overview of my own research, current research findings, personal experiences of applied practice, and professional opinion about the way to help young athletes develop mental toughness. We are far from having all the answers to what is a complex developmental process, but there are some interesting new ideas emerging, and certainly some debates to be had. As with coaching, in the research area of mental toughness there are some different opinions. That’s okay, because debate is good and we shouldn’t expect that with complex issues that everybody would agree about doing something only one way. There are so many different factors that shape people, from underlying genetics to environmental experiences and more formal taught interventions. In essence I will argue there is no “one size fits all” approach that works across all contexts with all athletes.My experience of researching mental toughness and being an applied practitioner for over a decade has enabled me to understand that each athlete experiences different influences and travels their own path in regards to psychological development. What leads to toughening in one context, with one particular athlete can have detrimental effects for others.

As researchers, we can develop and test new ways of intervening to enhance mental toughness, but we must engage with the end users – which is why I am delighted to be sharing my ideas with coaches on June 30th. As part of my presentation, I will be highlighting the important interface between research and practice as the most appropriate way to enhance knowledge. This is a two-way, reciprocal exchange of knowledge. After all, the acid test of any intervention work is whether the application in the real world has measurable benefits – that can include enabling athletes to achieve closer to their potential more consistently and facilitating successful transitions from potential to achievement at the elite level. My arguments will focus around the need to provide a balance of challenge and support to developing athletes, but to allow athletes to solve their own problems and be exposed to, not shielded from challenge. My main aim will be to get practitioners thinking about the way they do things. In presenting my ideas, there will be somethings that are more appropriate / possible for some coaches / contexts than others (we all operate under constraints, for example). There are a whole host of other presenters who I respect as researchers and practitioners in this area who are also presenting. These include, Dan Abrahams, James Bell, David Grecic, and Stuart Wilkinson. I am sure it will be an informative and enjoyable day for delegates and presenters alike. Now, I better get back to finishing my presentation. I hope to see you there.

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