Although the idea of sending your child to a sports/performance psychologist is becoming more normalized, it’s still not a widely accepted practice among parents of junior athletes. Whether it’s the stigma of psychology, in general, that there is something “wrong” with you if you have to see a sports/performance psychologist, or just simply a lack of knowledge and understand about what a sports/performance psychologist does and how they can help, and despite its undeniable link to improved performance, the mental game remains neglected. Below are a few reasons you might consider changing that narrative and seek out a mental game coach for your junior golfer.
Junior golfers who have access to a sports/performance psychologist have an advantage over those who do not for several reasons:
- Mental skills training: Sports/Performance psychologists have specialized training that can teach junior golfers mental skills such as goal-setting, visualization, self-talk, and relaxation, which can help them perform better on the course.
- Coping with pressure: Golf can be an extremely mentally challenging sport, and junior golfers who work with a sports/performance psychologist can learn how to cope with pressure and stress, which can help them perform better not just under tournament conditions but also with external pressures from parents, family, coaches, and friends.
- Confidence building: Developmentally speaking, adolescence is a time when self-doubt and uncertainty permeate every aspect of a child’s life. Sports/Performance psychologists can help junior golfers develop confidence and a productive mindset, which can improve not only their overall performance on the golf course, but off the course as well.
- Individualized planning: Sports/Performance psychologists can provide individualized coaching to junior golfers, helping them identify their unique strengths and weaknesses, and develop a plan to maximize their potential over the long haul.
At its core, sports/performance psychology is interested in developing self-control; the ability to regulate one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. As the fundamental tenet of sports/performance psychology states, in order to control your performance, you must first be able to control yourself. Although neuroscience tells us the parts of the brain that are responsible for self-control don’t fully develop until your late twenties, the research also tells us that by teaching and guiding those skills at an earlier age, those skills can be learned and strengthened sooner. Of all of the skills a young athlete can learn that will have the greatest impact on their performance, those addressed by sports/performance psychology might be most critical. Importantly, providing your child access to a sports/performance psychologist can give a junior golfer a mental edge that can make a significant difference in their performance both on and off the course.