The next article in the series on critical skills and healthy habits for youth athletes and part of the Secret Sauce for Elite Performance is about reflection and leveraging a useful tool to capture thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Journaling seems to be a lost art that many adults are adding back to their routines. My own personal experience with this daily routine has yielded both desired changes and has had a positive impact on my personal goals as well as desired results and outcomes in every area of my life.
Journaling is a powerful tool that can help youth athletes improve their performance, mental health, and personal growth. Journaling can help you reflect on your goals, achievements, challenges, emotions, and strategies. It can also help you cope with stress, anxiety, and frustration. Journaling can be done in different ways, such as writing, drawing, recording audio or video, or using apps. Here are some tips on how to get started and best practices for journaling as a youth athlete.
- Find a journaling method that works for you. You can use a notebook, a computer, a phone, or any other device that you feel comfortable with. You can also choose a format that suits your style, such as bullet points, sentences, paragraphs, diagrams, or pictures. Experiment with different methods and formats until you find one that you enjoy and stick to it.
- Set a regular time and place for journaling. Journaling can be done at any time of the day, but it is helpful to have a routine that makes it easier to remember and follow. You can journal before or after your training sessions, games, or competitions, or at the end of the day before going to bed. You can also journal in a quiet and private place where you can focus and relax, such as your bedroom, your locker room, or your car.
- Write honestly and openly. Journaling is a personal and confidential activity that allows you to express yourself without fear of judgment or criticism. You can write about anything that matters to you, such as your goals, achievements, challenges, emotions, and strategies. You can also write about your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and failures, your hopes and fears, your joys and sorrows. Be honest and open with yourself and don’t censor or edit your thoughts or feelings.
- Use journaling prompts to guide you. Journaling prompts are questions or statements that can help you start or continue your journaling process. They can help you focus on specific topics or aspects of your athletic experience that you want to explore or improve. For example, some journaling prompts for youth athletes are:
- What are my short-term and long-term goals as an athlete?
- What did I do well today? What can I improve on?
- How did I feel during and after my training session/game/competition?
- What challenges did I face today? How did I overcome them?
- What did I learn from my coach/teammates/opponents today?
- What are some positive affirmations that I can say to myself?
- What are some gratitude statements that I can make?
- What are some coping strategies that I can use when I feel stressed/anxious/frustrated?
- How can I celebrate my achievements and reward myself?
- How can I support my teammates and show sportsmanship?
- Review and reflect on your journal entries. Journaling is not only about writing but also about reading and reflecting on what you wrote. Reviewing and reflecting on your journal entries can help you gain insights into your athletic performance, mental health, and personal growth. You can review and reflect on your journal entries at the end of the week, month, or season. You can also look for patterns, themes, changes, or progress in your journal entries. You can ask yourself questions such as:
- What have I accomplished so far?
- What have I learned from my experiences?
- How have I grown as an athlete and as a person?
- What are some challenges that I still need to overcome?
- What are some areas that I still need to work on?
- How can I apply what I learned from my journaling to my future goals?
Journaling is a valuable habit that can benefit youth athletes in many ways. By journaling regularly, you can improve your performance, mental health, and personal growth. You can also enjoy the process of journaling as a creative and fun activity that allows you to express yourself and discover more about yourself.
- Brown Jr., Charles G., et al. “The Benefits of Journal Writing for Student-Athletes.” Journal of College Student Development 60.4 (2019): 472-477.
- Friesen, Andrew P., et al. “Exploring the potential benefits of digital reflective practice in high-performance sport: A case study.” Psychology of Sport & Exercise 45 (2020): 101600.
- Gould D., Carson S., Blanton J.E., “Journal writing for life skills development in elite tennis.” The