Mental Skills Training and Youth Athletes: An Exploratory Review of the Empirical Literature with Implications for Long Term Development

Darcy Strouse, BelieveinMe Sports, LLC, USA

Theme: Youth sport

Poster Number: 147

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Great strides, both empirical and applied, have been made in the extant knowledge base on effective mental skills training (MST) for athletes (Birrer & Morgan, 2010; Gould & Maynard, 2009); however, the major subject focus of this knowledge base has been on the adult athlete. It is only recently that sport psychology methods for youth have received empirical (Chase, Magyar, & Drake, 2005; Copeland, Bonnell, Reider, & Burton, 2009) and applied (Orlick & McCaffrey, 2007; Visek, A. J., Harris, B. S., & Blom, L. C., 2009) attention but they have yet to be synthesized, and the degree to which they have been translated for use with youth is unknown. This presentation reports on the results of an exploratory literature review focused on examining the empirical literature published during the past 12 years (2000 to 2012) to determine whether evidence-based knowledge on effective MST for youth exists and if so, for which mental skills, sports, and youth age-groups. An additional question of interest addressed by the review is whether knowledge exists on children’s conceptual understanding of mental skills employed in the competitive sport context. Several clinical/practice implications of the review will be discussed, including: a) what is the state-of- the-science (study designs and methods employed, sports and age-groups studied, mental skills and outcomes examined) of the emerging knowledge base on MST for youth athletes, b) preliminary insight into youth athletes’ conceptual understanding and use of different mental skills – and how levels of understanding may vary by age; c) research-based information on the effectiveness of specific mental skills or combinations of skills when applied to youth athletes, and d) examples of how specific mental skills training interventions can be applied for youth within clinical and field settings, in performance areas outside of athletics, and for overall, long term life skills development.

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