Mastering small habits: the key to success for young athletes

Introducing and mastering small habits in the routine of young athletes can pose challenges due to their tendency to become bored quickly. However, drawing inspiration from James Clear’s “Atomic Habits,” young athletes can utilize tiny changes to enhance their performance on the field.

But what exactly are these small habits, and how can they address the unique challenges faced by young athletes? Here’s the key to success:

The Power of Small Habits

  1. Consistency: Consistency is paramount for young athletes. Establishing daily habits, like practicing a skill or following a pre-game routine, builds momentum over time and leads to significant improvements.
  2. Cue-Routine-Reward: Applying the cue-routine-reward framework helps young athletes develop effective habits. By identifying triggers, implementing desired actions, and rewarding themselves, athletes reinforce positive behaviors and solidify habits.
  3. Goal Setting: Clear, actionable goals are essential. Breaking larger objectives into manageable steps enables athletes to maintain focus, track progress, and stay motivated.

Implementing Small Habits

  1. Start Small: Begin with achievable habits aligned with athletic goals, such as a daily stretching routine or improving hydration habits, listening a music to calm down… Starting small sets the stage for long-term success.
  2. Track Progress*: Utilize habit journals to monitor adherence to new habits. Tracking progress provides accountability and identifies areas for improvement.
  3. Stay Flexible: Adaptability is crucial. While consistency is key, it’s essential to adjust habits as circumstances change due to injuries, schedule shifts, or other factors (lack of efficiency).


Mastering Small Habits for Young Athletes

To ensure tasks are understandable and manageable for young kids:

  • Simplify Instructions “make it easy”: Break tasks into digestible steps easy for kids to follow.
  • Make it Fun “make it attractive”: Incorporate play and creativity to engage young athletes and make tasks enjoyable.
  • Encourage Responsability and “make it obvious”: Encourage the child to track their own progress, with you acting as their accountability partner!
  • Offer Rewards “make it satisfying”: Provide positive reinforcement and incentives to motivate kids to complete tasks successfully.

It’s also crucial for parents and coaches to remember that even small habits can sometimes be ineffective. Encouraging openness to change and acknowledgment when a strategy isn’t working fosters a growth mindset. This teaches athletes to adapt, problem-solve, and seek alternative solutions, valuable skills in sports and life.

In the same topic, check this video from Michael Phelps “Think Small to Accomplish Big Things”

Extra resource available:

BECOMING A CHAMPION -The Post Evaluation Match-Introducing sports potential-boosting notebooks for kids- Anne Delannet

Atomic Habits – Tiny Challenges, Remarkable Results: the life-changing million-copy #1 bestseller-James Clear

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