Focus on these 3 Main Things for Youth Athletic Success


By Coach Hoy, MS, CSCS, SCCC, PES, TPI1

Successful coaches and athletes alike understand and appreciate the value of proper preparation and its relationship to achieving success in sports competition.  But what many athletes and coaches don't understand are the three main components that need to be addressed for optimal athletic success: physical preparation, tactical/technical preparation, and mental or psychological preparation.

Physical Preparation

Physical preparation is any type of training that addresses the physical elements of sports such as mobility, flexibility, strength, speed, power, acceleration, deceleration, dynamic vision, reaction time, and sports nutrition. All of these elements need to be addressed to help best prepare an athlete or team for successful sports competition.

Tactical/Technical Preparation

Tactical/technical preparation is training specific plays, techniques (specific to each sport and/or position), and strategies for each sport. This type of preparation requires practice and education through coaches, higher level athletes, or specialized camps and clinics. Many high-level athletes have a thorough understanding of the tactical/technical aspect of his/her sport.

Mental Preparation

Lastly, mental preparation is training the mind for successful performance. Some of the components important in mental preparation include motivation, arousal, energy management, goal-setting, imagery, relaxation and energization, attention, stress management, self confidence, and mental toughness. These are components that can be addressed by a sports psychologist, or an experienced and well educated sports performance coach, performance scientist, or sports coach.

All three areas of preparation are needed to perform at the highest levels of competition. Many athletes and teams often concentrate on only one or two areas and end up falling short in the end. It is only through proper preparation that sports success can be attained.  The coaches at Finish First Sports Performance understand this and that is why it is our mission to prepare athletes to perform their best when it matters most.

A successful sports program has coaches and/or consulting experts that are proficient in addressing the three areas of sports success.

Coach John Wooden, one of the most successful basketball coaches ever, understood the value of preparation in building a winning program.  In this excerpt from his book, Wooden: A lifetime of observations and reflections on and off the court (Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books, pages 53-55, 80-82, 1997), he tells how he placed more value on preparation than on the outcome.  Focus on preparation and expect a better outcome. 

“I informed every player who came under my supervision that the outcome of a game was simply a by-product of the effort we made to prepare.  They understood our destination was a successful journey—namely, total, complete, and detailed preparation.  Thus, there were many, many games that gave me as much pleasure as any of the ten national championships we won, simply because we prepared fully and played near our highest level of ability…The preparation is where success is truly found…I was just as satisfied with my efforts in the fourteen years before we won a national championship as I was the final twelve years, when we captured ten championships.  In face, and you may have trouble accepting this, I believe we were more successful than in some years when we did…

Winning games, titles, and championships isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and getting there, the journey, is  a lot more than it’s cracked up to be…Please understand that I wanted to win every single game I ever played or coached…But, I understood that ultimately the winning or losing may not be under my control.  What was under my control was how I prepared myself and our team.  I judged my success, my “winning,” on that…If we won, great; frosting on the cake.  But, at no time did I consider the winning to be the cake.

I had mistakes, plenty, but I had no failure.  We may not have won a championship ever year, we may have lost games.  But we had no failures.  You never fail if you know in your heart that you did the best of which you are capable…And are you going to make mistakes?  Of course, but it is not failure if you make the full effort.  I told my players many times, 

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  

If you prepare properly you may be outscored but you will never lose.  Long before any championships were ever won at UCLA, I came to understand that losing is only temporary and not all encompassing.  You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again.  Then you must have the self-control to forget it.”

Where are you on your “journey” of successful sports performance?  If you are not properly preparing, you will not achieve a high level of athletic success.  Find a coach now to help you get on the right track. Leave a comment if you have specific questions. Thanks for reading!


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