How to Build Mental Toughness in High School Athletes

Improve mental toughness in high school athletes to boost performance on and off the field. It’s a skill that transfers to adulthood and beyond — and one that can be taught. So it’s best to teach it early and set adolescents up for success.

High school coaches can add basic practices and tweak their current training style further to improve mental toughness, discipline, and performance. Continue reading for actionable tips and strategies you can implement to help your athletes become mentally tough.

Create a positive training environment 

As a coach, you lead by example, especially when mentoring high school athletes. One of the best ways to teach mental toughness is to create a positive training environment that facilitates growth.

The environment says a lot about how you want your athletes to behave and learn.

Training should be fun — that doesn’t mean it can’t be challenging, but your athletes should look forward to their sessions. So how do you do this — how do you create a positive training environment?

Introduce team-building exercises, bonding activities, and fun minigames — these recommendations are also great for building team chemistry. 

Also, practice what you preach. You should practice mental toughness (and be mentally tough) if that’s what you want to teach. Lead by example. 

Related: What Makes a Good High School Sports Coach?

It’s all about communication 

Many coaches adopt the “bully” mentality — they give drill after drill, instruction after instruction, and then wonder why their athletes aren’t improving. The issue here is that communication is a two-way street.

And yes, while these exercises may build discipline and mental toughness — to some extent, creating an open line of communication and working together may prove better. Athletes are more likely to talk to you when struggling, mentorship will become more collaborative, and performance typically improves. 

In a high school environment, you can go a step further by hanging around after practice or letting them know they can talk to you about anything — not just sports.

Introduce competition and pressure to build mental toughness

A lot of high school teams and athletes deal with pressure almost exclusively in competition. This is usually a handful of times a season. But instead, why not create training scenarios that mimic competition during practice?

Doing so has many benefits. For example, you can identify (a) what’s going well and (b) what can be improved. This is an excellent way to build mental toughness. Let’s say an athlete loses motivation and then makes mistakes after a call that was not in their favor by the referee — you can practice these exact scenarios to help prevent the dip in motivation and performance.

Introducing competition is easy to do as well. For example, you can split your team into two, or if you coach multiple teams, you can have them play each other.

After the friendly competition, you can ask high school athletes (a) what they think went well and (b) what they think can be improved. Getting feedback directly from your athletes increases accountability. You can also cross-reference this feedback with your notes to implement new skills or even mental training to improve mental toughness and performance. 

Teach basic mental training skills 

Mental skills provide athletes with the tools to increase confidence and build mental toughness. It’s also a useful tool to improve skill, e.g., visualizing freekick technique.

Despite this, however, high school students are less likely to perform more advanced mental skills because they may seem “anecdotal.” So instead, try and teach the fundamentals so they can see how effective they are, and then build on their skills over months and years.

Basic mental skills include [3]:

  • Positive self-talk
  • Goal setting 
  • Visualization 
  • Mindfulness 

We’ll explain each of these in more detail with examples of how to execute them with your high school athletes below.

Want more guidance on mental training? Read our blog post on how to create a mental training program for athletes.

Positive self-talk

Self-talk is one of the easier mental skills to implement. It can help increase confidence, reduce anxiety, and improve task performance. But when people think of self-talk, they often think of shouting affirmations in the mirror. 

And while this is partly true, it’s not the only way to do it. For starters, most people don’t do that — if they do use self-talk, it’s usually done in their minds. It’s words, phrases, and cues that trigger an emotional response. For example, a cross-country runner might use self-talk cues such as “relax shoulders” and “high knees.”

The same runner might use self-talk during an event to break up the race into smaller bite-size chunks. Let’s say the race is 5 laps long — they might say to themselves, “1 lap left,” when there’s actually 2 or 3. You can trick your brain into perseverance, and this is a powerful way to build mental toughness.  

Why not introduce your athletes to a basic self-talk script?

Goal setting 

Goal setting is a tried and tested method of improving performance and mental toughness.

One study in adolescents analyzed the impacts of a 12-week core strength training program. Results found that those who combined goal setting with core strength training were more effective in improving fitness [1]. 

This demonstrates the impact of goals — they are a must-have.

But how do you set effective goals? We suggest using the SMART goal-setting principles [2]:

  • Specific: state exactly what you want to achieve or improve.
  • Measurable: how can you accurately measure progress?
  • Achievable: Is it possible? You need to be realistic.
  • Realistic: your goals should be challenging, but not impossible.
  • Time-bound: set a realistic timeframe to achieve your goals.

When working with a team, consider setting shared goals and actually setting these together. Don’t just make them your goals — sit down together and collectively come up with goals to work towards. This will also help accountability and improve mental toughness.


Visualization is one of the more difficult mental skills to implement with high school athletes. 

Instead of diving into the deep end, we recommend trying a simple exercise before practice: ask your athletes to visualize a skill they want to improve, imagining successful skill performance. For example, this could be taking a free kick, diving to save a shot in the top left corner, or successfully dribbling around a player.

This should improve focus within the training session, and add more intention and goal-directed behavior to get better at the skill they have identified.

Use worksheets or other written feedback methods, such as surveys or questionnaires, to track progress, i.e., if your athletes find these mental exercises valuable.


When people hear mindfulness, they often think of meditation. And while this is one of the components, mindfulness also comprises other exercises such as deep breathing, relaxation, and even journaling to provide clarity.

While you can use visualization at the start of practice, you can use mindfulness at the end of practice. For instance, you can ask your athletes to jot down what they think went well and want them to improve in the next session. This is a simple way to increase accountability and allows your athletes to become intentional.


Improve mental toughness with Rewire

“Our coaches can see every night to stay on top of fatigue and readiness. So incredibly useful.” – Jez Cox, Head Cycling Coach, Oaklands Wolves

Coaches can use Rewire to help prime their athletes for performance, increasing mental toughness, focus, and readiness to perform at their best. You also receive insights into athlete readiness to help you make smarter training and recovery decisions.

Your athletes get access to the athlete platform — a science-backed toolkit that contains neuro-training exercises to improve mental resilience and mindset, and promotes mind and body recovery.

Find out more about Rewire for teams


  1. Lu, Y., Yu, K. and Gan, X., 2022. Effects of a SMART Goal Setting and 12-Week Core Strength Training Intervention on Physical Fitness and Exercise Attitudes in Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(13), p.7715.
  2. McCarthy, P.J. and Gupta, S., 2022. Set goals to get goals: Sowing seeds for success in sports. Frontiers for Young Minds, 10(10.3389).
  3. Röthlin, P., Horvath, S., Trösch, S., Holtforth, M.G. and Birrer, D., 2020. Differential and shared effects of psychological skills training and mindfulness training on performance-relevant psychological factors in sport: a randomized controlled trial. BMC psychology, 8, pp.1-13.

How Can Coaches Improve Team Performance? 8 Tips

Michael Jordan once said, “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

As a coach, improving team performance is no doubt one of your main goals. The better your team, the more likely you are to win. 

But many coaches often forget that a team consists of multiple players. It sounds so basic. However, all the moving pieces (the players) need to work together for the team to perform at its best.

And while everybody wants to win, it’s talent and team development that is often the most rewarding and realistic to achieve. Everybody wants to improve, right?

This blog will highlight how coaches can improve team performance.

Key takeaways:

  • Coaches should better understand team dynamics to improve performance
  • Celebrate small wins & reflect on losses candidly 
  • Use Rewire to help athletes achieve peak performance 

How can a coach help a team?

Without a coach, you can still have a team. 

But with a coach, the team is more likely to be better aligned towards the same objective, i.e., everyone has the same goal.

For instance, while a team wants to win (big goal), smaller actions such as athlete feedback and team dynamics are necessary to achieve the bigger goal. 

A coach can help athletes get on the same train that leads to the final destination (big goal). While previously, they might have taken different routes to get there. This alignment is what makes a successful team.

So how can coaches improve team performance?

  1. Organize sports team bonding activities 
  2. Celebrate small wins 
  3. Reflect on losses through a candid lens
  4. Set SMART team goals
  5. Provide custom feedback to your athletes (based on their skill level)
  6. Listen to your athletes & support their individual development
  7. Better understand team dynamics
  8. Implement mental training with your athletes 

Organize sports team bonding activities 

One of the best ways for coaches to improve team performance is by organizing team bonding activities. This is especially true if it’s a new team, such as a high school sports team or a collegiate soccer team.

Your choice of activities will depend on the age group of your athletes. For example, if you’re coaching a youth sports team, then games such as tug of war, stuck in the mud, and relay races are great starting points.

But there are surprisingly fewer team bonding activities for older teams and adults. But a few ideas include escape rooms, social events, team dinners, and other non-sport activities.

Let’s use the Top Gun movie example — they might be fighter pilots, but they play beach volleyball to bond and improve their teamwork. Get creative with it!

Celebrate small wins 

Don’t just celebrate the big victories — celebrate the small wins along the way. Make sure to involve all team members when celebrating key milestones, shared goals, and other events.

Acknowledging and celebrating these small wins is a great way to increase team morale, spirit, and performance. 

Reflect on losses through a candid lens 

Every team experiences losses. 

A good coach can reflect on team performance with an honest and candid viewpoint. 

It’s important to assess what went well, but, more importantly, what could be improved. Be careful how you deliver feedback — more on this later in this post — but be brutally transparent as to why you either (a) won, or (b) lost.

Set SMART team goals

By now, you likely know what SMART goals are. If not, don’t stress:

  • Specific: state exactly what you want to achieve or improve.
  • Measurable: how can you accurately measure progress?
  • Achievable: Is it possible? You need to be realistic.
  • Realistic: your goals should be challenging, but not impossible.
  • Time-bound: set a realistic timeframe to achieve your goals.

When setting goals as a coach, you should set these with your team. If the team is involved in the goal-setting process, they are more likely to commit to them.

As a coach, you may choose to discuss your goals with the team at the beginning of the season. 

This is a great time to drive motivation and get everyone on the same page. It makes it that much easier to move the needle closer to your goals, whether that’s winning the league or avoiding relegation. 

Make team goals a part of your pre-season preparation. 

Provide custom feedback to your athletes (based on their current skill level)

Coaches can build on their team performance by improving how they provide feedback to their athletes.

For example, if you’re coaching multiple teams of different skill levels, you shouldn’t use the same feedback for both groups [1].

Instead, you want to tailor your coaching feedback to their individual skill level.

Let me provide you with a basic and easy-to-understand example. You have two groups:

  1. Beginner-to-novice athletes
  2. Elite athletes

Feedback for the beginner-to-novice athletes will look a little different — it’s likely to be more focused on basic skill learning, thus, less technical. 

On the other hand, when providing feedback to elite athletes, you can be more direct and instructional — they know the basic skills, but they may need to apply them differently.

You can take a similar approach when providing feedback to your athletes. Provide custom feedback depending on where they are currently, not where you want them to be.

The better each athlete performs, typically, the better the team performs.

Related: What is the Most Effective Way to Provide Feedback to an Athlete?

Listen to your athletes & support their individual development

It sounds so simple, but listening to your athletes can improve team performance in sports.

Naturally, some athletes will be better at some skills than others. Therefore, you want to find a way to complement each skill set for the best results.

Also, being there for your athletes, e.g., after training, can provide additional team bonding. 

And if an athlete is struggling with their mental health or motivation for training, for example, then you can help them get access to the help they need.

Better understand team dynamics 

If you can leverage and better understand team dynamics, you can improve team performance.

For example, in a team, all teammates have preferred communication styles.

As a coach, you must recognize these and pair accordingly. You might be able to address one player’s weaknesses while improving another’s strengths.

Get creative with it. But ultimately, the more your team works like a team, the better. It sounds simple — that’s because it is — but when done correctly, it’s incredibly powerful. 

Implement mental training with your athletes

“Before every shot, I go to the movies.” – Jack Nicklaus

It’s no secret that the best athletes use mental training to improve their performance. For example, Elite Olympic swimmer Megan Jendrick, in preparation for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, stated: “I visualize my races every night before I go to bed. I visualize it with a stopwatch in my hand. Every night, my goal is to go 1:05:40, I just visualized it the other day, and on the stopwatch, my time was 1:05:47.” Jendrick went on to win gold that year.

The above is only one example of mental training, a technique known as visualization. 

You can create a mental training program for your athletes to help improve their weaknesses and develop better skills and techniques. 

No two mental training plans are the same. To get started, we suggest you read our blog post on how to create a mental training program for athletes.

Coaches can use Rewire to improve team performance 

Coaches can improve team performance by following the advice in this blog post.

You can also take it a step further. Athletes can use Rewire to improve mental resilience, focus, and to enhance competition mindset, prep, and team performance, whether in cycling, golf, basketball, or any sport.

Here’s what Cody Parrent, Senior Director of ESports operations at Indiana Pacers, said:

“Rewire has changed the way our players and staff train, measure performance, and manage cognitive fatigue on a daily basis. This new holistic approach to readiness and recovery has enabled our esports athletes to perform at their maximum level and reach peak performance.” 

Find out how Rewire can improve team performance


  1. Otte, F.W., Davids, K., Millar, S.K. and Klatt, S., 2020. When and how to provide feedback and instructions to athletes?—How sport psychology and pedagogy insights can improve coaching interventions to enhance self-regulation in training. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, p.1444.

What Makes a Good Youth Sports Coach

We’ve all heard stories about youth sports coaches, both good and bad. There’s the coach who makes training exciting and a fun place to be, and then there’s the coach who yells at the kids, almost as if they enrolled into boot camp. 

If you’re a youth sports coach, there are certain qualities that parents look for and that kids need in a coach and mentor. 

This blog post will highlight what makes a good youth sports coach — it’s both a guide for coaches (what to do and what not to do), and for parents to help them find the right coach for their kids.

What are the qualities of a good coach in youth sports?

Good sports coaches often share similar qualities — they leave behind patterns.

Youth coaches typically have many of the following coaching behaviours: 

  1. They make training fun 
  2. Winning is not the priority 
  3. They teach good sportsmanship
  4. The coach does not play favourites
  5. They are patient
  6. Good youth sport coaches have a positive can-do attitude
  7. Let all kids get involved
  8. Teaches basic skills 
  9. Knows how to effectively communicate with the kids 
  10. Provides equal playing time and opportunities 

They make training fun 

Good sports coaches know how to make training fun (and why it’s important). 

We’ve all seen or heard the screaming coach — it’s not a good look, and it’s the wrong approach to coaching (especially when coaching young kids).

Training should be fun and may include friendly competition.

For example, there’s the classic warm up of stuck in the mud, tag, and other fun games.

If you’re in the pool, you might play a game such as attack of the killer bees (tag with pool noodles). Although, no contact with the face or head is allowed.

Or maybe if you’re playing football, you’ll finish the session with a quick round of crossbar challenge, involving all players and keeping things fun and competitive.

Winning is not the priority 

Winning should not be a priority of a youth coach.

Yes, it may feel good. And the team may enjoy it. But the priority should be to have fun.

Young athletes who enjoy training are more likely to stick with it, whether that’s for months or years.

Furthermore, not winning actually teaches many life lessons and skills, especially if you experience these from a young age. 

They teach good sportsmanship

Good sportsmanship should be taught from an early age. It not only teaches respect in the world of sport, but in life.

At the end of a session, youth coaches might ask their athletes to high-five each other.

At the end of a game, players should handshake their opponents.

Good youth sports coaches recognise the opportunity to teach proper sportsmanship and respect, and include these behaviours where possible and appropriate.

The coach does not play favourites 

The same can be said for any coach, whether in youth sports, high school, or at the elite level.

A good coach should never have favourites. 

Yes, they might have one or two star athletes (this is normal), but during training, they should provide their attention to all athletes. Not one, two, or a select group.

Prioritising certain children and athletes over others should be an instant red flag.

Related: What qualities make a great sports coach? 

They are patient 

At the end of the day, kids are kids.

They’ll talk over one another, they might not listen the first time, and you’ll have to repeat things over and over.

A good sports coach at the youth level needs to be very patient. 

That means not shouting when they don’t listen, and being willing to go the extra mile to explain concepts to kids who might be struggling to grasp them on the first try. It’s part of the learning process and part of developing new skills. 

This patience and dedication go a long way — you’ll see first-hand how much of a profound effect you can have on young athletes.

Good youth sports coaches have a positive can-do attitude 

At some point or another, we’ve all had (or seen) a coach who had a positive attitude — they were enthusiastic and pushed us to achieve more than we thought was possible.

A youth sports coach with a positive attitude is highly underrated. They motivate kids to attend practice, push themselves, and face many challenges.

They are also typically great at providing positive reinforcement and building self confidence in kids.

Related: What is the Most Effective Way to Provide Feedback to an Athlete?

Training instantly becomes more fun and enjoyable, and kids are equally as excited to attend the training session.

Compare this to a coach who shouts and screams at their athletes, and you’ll see first-hand how powerful that can-do attitude is. 

Enthusiasm is infectious — look for this quality in a youth sports coach. 

Let all kids get involved

A great coach lets all kids get involved, not just one individual player.

Excluding any kid or athlete is a sign of a bad coach.

Youth coaching (and any coaching) is about inclusivity. 

Excluding any kid is not only harmful in the moment (they may feel left out, upset, etc.), but you might stop them from playing sports later in life.

Sports exclusion is one of the worst things you can do — it’s not a good coaching behaviour. Avoid this at all costs, especially in youth.

Related: 5 Qualities of a Bad Coach (And How to Avoid Them).

Teaches basic skills 

A good youth sports coach focuses on the development of young kids (that includes teaching basic skills).

Often, these skills will be naturally built into training sessions and school PE classes.

For example, life skills such as teamwork, good communication, sportsmanship, and even fundamental physical skills (balance, jumping, running, hopping, etc.) are commonly taught.

These are easy to implement (but very important), and kids usually don’t even realise what lessons and skills they’re being taught until later in life.

Knows how to effectively communicate with the kids

While all coaches need to be effective communicators (it’s an integral part of coaching), it’s especially important when coaching young athletes and kids.

Young people have shorter spans of attention. They are more likely to become distracted. And you might need to explain a concept multiple times (visual and auditory) for them to get it.

Good coaches know this and are extremely patient with the kids. They have great communication skills and use these in (and out of) practice to get the most out of young athletes. 

Provides equal playing time and opportunities 

And finally, youth sports coaches should provide equal playing time and opportunities for all their athletes.

During training, that means everybody gets time on the ball, has equal opportunities to shoot hoops, and nobody is excluded in a game of tag.

Good youth coaches know how to involve all kids in a fun and engaging way — training becomes exciting, and kids look forward to their next session.

Which, as you can imagine, has many positive rebound effects.



How to Teach Mental Toughness in Sports

Mental toughness is often associated with an unshakable self-belief, the refusal to quit, and impressive self confidence.

Professional athletes, in particular, are known to face adversity head-on, staying concentrated on the task at hand, regardless of what obstacles are thrown their way [2]. 

Many of the very best athletes understand that the need to develop mental toughness is crucial. It’s what separates the best from the very best.

Conversely, if an athlete lacks mental toughness, then they are less likely to give it their all in both training and competition. 

Which athlete would you rather have on your team? 

Some athletes are more mentally tough than others; it’s just how it is. And it’s the way that it will always be.

But mental toughness can be trained. So that’s what this blog post is all about — this is a guide for coaches on how to teach mental toughness in sports.

Key takeaways:

  • Mental toughness and resilience can be trained
  • Use SMART goal setting to build discipline and accountability  
  • Create training scenarios to mimic dips in mental toughness 

A few examples of mental toughness in sport

When you think of an athlete who is mentally tough, your mind likely goes to those who persevere and push through adversity. Usually, it’s the athletes who show up and give it their all, game after game, session after session.

It’s the talented athletes who have the mental strength to ride a solo breakaway at the Giro d’Italia with 80 km to go. It’s those who play with food poisoning and get promoted to the NBA finals. And it’s the athletes who fight with their teammate for multiple seasons but go on to win the world championship with Mercedes at the very last Formula One race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

It’s the Chris Froomes, the Michael Jordans, and the Nico Rosbergs of the world. They’re all incredible athletes who can access the present moment and play the mental game exceptionally well. 

And that’s only a few examples of elite athletes who have unshakable mental toughness. 

The “food poisoning game” 

It’s game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals — the Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz.

It’s 2 am in the early hours of the morning, and Michael Jordan orders a pizza. He’s starving, and there’s only 1 place open. But what he doesn’t know is that he’ll later go on to get food poisoning, spending all day in bed, throwing up. 

Most people would not play the same evening. Most people would still be in bed, wishing they could play and feeling sorry for themselves. But not Michael Jordan.

Jordan was the heart and centre of that game. He went on to score 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. The Chicago Bulls moved on to game 6 and went on to win the 1997 NBA finals.

The game was labelled the famous “food poisoning game,” and to this day, nobody knows how Michael Jordan did it. 

If this isn’t the most perfect example of mental toughness in Elite sport we’ve ever seen, then what is?

It may sound simple, but both winning and losing can become a mindset, and I won’t accept losing – ever. — Scottie Pippen, Former Basketball Player for The Chicago Bulls. 

How to teach mental toughness 

Many athletes and coaches stand firm in the belief that mental toughness is genetic — it’s a thing some athletes have. And something other athletes do not have.

And while we agree that some athletes may be naturally more mentally tough than others, coaches can still teach mental toughness in sports.

But how do you teach it, you ask?

  1. Teach discipline and goal-directed behaviour 
  2. Use failure as an opportunity to learn
  3. Create training scenarios to mimic competition 
  4. Use Rewire to improve mental toughness 

Teach discipline and goal-directed behaviour 

Expert coaches and elite athletes agree that discipline and goal-directed behaviour are essential components of mental toughness [1].

As a coach, you should use goal-setting principles to keep your athletes motivated and focused on the task at hand. So when it comes to it, they can rise up to the challenge and practise mental toughness.

You should coach your athletes on how to set SMART goals. This type of goal setting is very effective in sports and can help athletes persevere, whether rehabbing from an injury or practising their free throw.

The SMART acronym stands for [3]:

  • Specific: state exactly what you want to achieve or improve.
  • Measurable: how can you accurately measure progress?
  • Achievable: Is it possible? You need to be realistic.
  • Realistic: your goals should be challenging, but not impossible.
  • Time-bound: set a realistic timeframe to achieve your goals.

Use failure as an opportunity to learn

The very best athletes use failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve.

And although it’s a useful tool to get better, many athletes (and everyday people) do not do well with failure.

Failure can easily knock an athlete’s self confidence, and just easily negatively impact their mental toughness. 

As a coach, you should teach your athletes not to fear failure. Embracing failure is a way to get better — to find your weaknesses (as a player or a team), and ultimately provides the groundwork and motivation to do better.

Athletes do not want to make mistakes. But it’s these mistakes that allow them to learn and improve. Take Jonny Brownlee, for example; he was set to win the final race of the World Triathlon Series in Mexico back in 2016, only to encounter severe dehydration in the final stretch of the race. He would have won the race, but instead, he was carried over the finish line by his brother, Alistair, to finish second. 

And what did Jonny do? He made sure not to make the same hydration mistakes again.

It’s these mistakes that can be very difficult to deal with in the moment, but are crucial mistakes to learn. It’s what creates mentally tough athletes.

Create training scenarios to mimic competition 

During competition, you might notice some athletes lose motivation and subsequent mental toughness — they’re more likely to make a mistake, less likely to put in the effort, and may allow the decision from a referee to get the best of them.

Situations that zap mental toughness can be coached and mitigated in training.

For example, if an athlete loses motivation and scuffs their shots when they’re losing, create the same scenario in training to mimic competition.

Practice lapses in mental toughness and motivation in practice, and make sure they don’t happen when they matter most.

Use Rewire for teams to improve mental toughness

Coaches can use Rewire to improve focus, increase readiness for their athletes to perform, and reduce stress.

Athletes also gain access to the Athlete Platform — the ultimate toolkit to help athletes improve mindset, manage stress, and improve mental toughness in the run-up to competition. 

Coaches can use Rewire to prescribe neuro-training sessions that best suit an athlete’s readiness. Athletes can also select their own neuro-training protocols to further build mental toughness and resilience. The neuro-training sessions utilises brain-endurance training protocols to help athletes build mental toughness.

Related: Overview of Rewire’s Neuro-Training System

And that’s not it. Coaches can use Rewire to assess athletes’ readiness scores — this allows you to adjust training load and intensity for each athlete based on how they feel mentally and physically.

“There has been huge advancements in the way we train the body for peak performance. I truly believe that the next major gains will be surrounding the brain/body connection. Rewire Fitness is an app that helps with just that.” — Matt Hanson, Professional Triathlete and Coach.

How do athletes work on mental toughness?

You can apply all the best coaching principles in the world, but at the end of the day, your athletes also need to work on their mental toughness.

They need to apply the principles and practise the habits and lessons to increase their mental toughness.

Athletes can also use tools such as Rewire, using scientifically proven neuro-training protocols to build mental toughness and resilience.

“With the app, it’s giving you a controlled environment and structure so that you can choose when you want to add mental training to your workouts, and you can do it as often as you’d like.” — Laura Kline, Elite Ultra runner & Endurance Athlete.


How to build mental toughness in young athletes?

To build mental toughness in youth athletes, you should practise discipline and SMART goal setting. Make sure to set difficult but achievable goals for the best results.
Related: How to Build Mental Toughness in Youth Athletes

What is the best sport for mental toughness?

Virtually all sports, when done correctly, can be an excellent vessel for improving mental toughness. Although, gymnastics is often a standout sport for many, especially because athletes start training as early as 2 years old.

Can mental toughness be trained? 

Yes! Mental toughness and mental resilience can be trained. And while some athletes may naturally be more mentally tough than others, the trait can certainly be improved. 

Fourie, S. and Potgieter, J.R., 2001. The nature of mental toughness in sport. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 23(2), pp.63-72.

Liew, G.C., Kuan, G., Chin, N.S. and Hashim, H.A., 2019. Mental toughness in sport. German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research, 49(4), pp.381-394.

McCarthy, P.J. and Gupta, S., 2022. Set goals to get goals: Sowing seeds for success in sports. Frontiers for Young Minds, 10(10.3389). 


What Makes a Good High School Sports Coach?

A high school sports coach is a very unique role — you’re not only developing student athletes to achieve their best, but you’re also a part of the wider school community.

You’ll teach fundamental skills to kids and advanced tactics to others. You’ll coach an entire netball or football team over the course of multiple seasons, and if you’re lucky, you might experience great success.

Oftentimes, you’ll also be a shoulder to lean on (or cry on), someone to talk to when an athlete is going through tough times, and you’ll teach general life skills to set up the next generation for success.

It’s rewarding. It’s demanding. And it’s one of a kind.

But what makes a good high school coach? Here’s everything you need to know.

Key takeaways:

  • You’re more than a coach; you’re a mentor 
  • Try to get the best out of each of your athletes
  • Know how to provide effective feedback & support

High school coach qualities 

  1. Provide a positive experience for all students
  2. The coach genuinely cares about their athletes
  3. A good coach pushes their athletes but also supports them
  4. Improve players’ weaknesses and double down on their strengths
  5. A good coach teaches the importance of discipline
  6. Lead by example
  7. Teaching that it’s not always about winning
  8. Use technology to provide effective coaching feedback

Provide a positive experience for all students

High school students have a lot of responsibilities. 

Unlike elite athletes who eat, sleep, and train, high school athletes have a lot more on their plate. For example, they have classes, exams, hobbies, relationships, and other things going on in their lives.

It’s unlikely and unrealistic to assume that student athletes can follow the same day-to-day recipe for elite success.

A lot of kids also run into family problems, relationship issues, and bullying. It’s not just about sport.

This is not unheard of — high school can be a tough time for a lot of kids. 

That’s why it’s even more important to provide a positive experience for all students as a high school coach.

For a lot of kids, sports are a way to relieve stress, hang out with friends, and have fun. But to make sure they get the most out of it, high school coaches should:

  • Encourage sport participation
  • Keep training fun and interactive
  • Emphasise teamwork and good sportsmanship 

The coach genuinely cares about their athletes

A high school sports coach who actually cares about their athletes — how they are doing in school and in general — will provide a lot more value to the youth than others.

Most likely, they will also play a much bigger role in youth development. 

Unlike a sports coach who’s coaching the world’s best basketball or football team, high school sports coaches face numerous unique challenges.

Yes, you might have one or two-star athletes. And you might have a team capable of winning a state championship. But you’re also part of the school community — there’s a lot more to it than the eye can see.

Great coaches (especially in youth) also teach life lessons, are mentors, and oftentimes, are somebody to talk to on or off the field if a kid is going through a tough time.

But who knows, you might have student athletes succeed, too. That’s the dream of every high school coach.

A good coach pushes their athletes but also supports them 

A good high school sports coach knows how to get the most out of his/her athletes.

But equally, they are there to support them when they need it. Whether that’s after a defeat, through injury, a tough training session, or the stress from exams and high school.

A good high school coach knows when to push their athletes and when to step off the gas and tone down the intensity. 

As part of a wider community, you have more responsibility. Some training sessions will be skipped for exams, and for others, kids may feel unmotivated, tired, and not in the zone to perform.

The best coaches recognise this and work with (and not against) the athlete to get the most out of the students. 

Improve players’ weaknesses and double down on their strengths

Many coaches are quick to identify a player’s weaknesses. Maybe their short pass could be improved, their form breaks down in the last 400m of a race, or their long pass is inconsistent.

And while fixing (or at least improving) these weaknesses is a must — you should also double down on their strengths.

Perhaps the athlete has an excellent long pass, great leadership qualities, or is dominant when running elbow to elbow on the track.

Many successful coaches improve athletes’ weaknesses but also double down on their strengths.

This contributes to player development but may also result in overall better teamwork on the pitch. It’s no surprise that the best coaches take the best skills and qualities from their athletes and use these to their advantage in competition. 

So what should you do as a coach?

  • Identify your athlete’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Work on these one at a time
  • Ensure the coaching experience is more positive than negative

A good coach teaches the importance of discipline

Youth sport and sports at high school teaches the importance of discipline and hard work.

Students will show up to training even when tired, push when needed, and get the most out of themselves (with the support of a good high school sports coach).

A lot of the skills you teach your athletes are transferable outside of sports. For instance, the discipline they learn on the track, court, or field can be applied to their studies and futures. 

For example, a conversation on goal setting in sports can be put to use in other domains of life.

Good high school sports coaches recognise the opportunity to teach valuable life advice in sports. Many of your athletes don’t want to become the next LeBron James, but you can teach many lessons that can be applied off the court.

Recognise this and put your knowledge to good work! 

Lead by example

We’ve all met that one coach who has a positive attitude no matter what. Win or lose. Rain or shine.

If you can lead by example and with the right attitude, you’ll encourage kids to do the same.

Share your love for sport, teach the importance of respect and a good work ethic, and you’ll hopefully get the same in return.

Coaching high school students can be very rewarding. And a lot of the time, you get out what you put in. It starts with your approach to coaching — so put in what you want to get out.

Teaching that it’s not always about winning

Winning feels great. But it’s not always about winning — it’s about growing as a team and giving it your all. 

As a high school sports coach, you should teach the value of improving (as a player and a team) over winning. 

This lesson goes beyond sports. Knowing how to deal with stress, loss, and failure is a very valuable life lesson.

Sports contain many highs and lows. Often, kids will encounter these first-hand in the game. A good coach teaches athletes how to deal with adversity.

Use technology to provide effective coaching feedback

Giving feedback to high school students can be tough. While some kids may have dreams of becoming professional athletes, others may want to focus on an entirely different area in life. And that’s okay.

But to provide more effective feedback, you need to better relate to the students — you can use technology to do this. 

The current generation of high school kids are very good at using technology. So why not take advantage of this?

For instance, you might use a smartphone to capture an athlete’s form for visual feedback or use fun and interactive training videos to teach fundamental skills.

And while you may need to adapt your coaching strategies ever so slightly, you’ll find it to be very rewarding.

Rewire for Teams — Athlete Management Platform

Rewire for high school coaches 

High school coaches have a great amount of responsibility — they are a huge part of the school community, and for many athletes, are trusted mentors.

A lot of the coaching you’ll do in a high school will be general talent development and fundamental skills training.

But you’ll likely also have a handful of athletes who have the skill, ability, and desire to go that little bit further.

Rewire for teams can help you provide better coaching recommendations and insights for these athletes. You can monitor their stress management and readiness for training to better balance school and sports. It also means you’ll have better data to prepare for training and competition.

Book a free consultation today to learn more about how Rewire can help your team.


What are the best qualities of a sports coach?

A good sports coach is positive, supportive, a mentor to their athletes, respectful, and very good at communicating. The best coaches also recognise that their coaching goes beyond sports.

What are the characteristics of a good mentor?

Good mentors (in sports and in life) are good listeners, are very knowledgeable, honest, non-judgemental, and know how to give quality feedback.

What skills are needed to be a sports coach? 

Professional coaching skills include a good understanding of sports, patience, a keen eye for analysis, great organisational skills, and others.

Related Topics:

What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach?
What Qualities Make a Great Sports Coach?
6 Ways to Inspire Your Sports Team as a Coach
5 Qualities of a Bad Coach (And How to Avoid Them)