Mental Skills for Young Athletes

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Well suited for athletes of any sport. 
Mental Skills for Young Athletes (course) splash image

Author, John M. Hogg, Ph.D.

John Hogg is a unique blend of practitioner and scientist. 

For many years he was a successful swimming coach at the club, university and international levels, training and guiding athletes to world class competition. Originally from Britain, John coached the Scottish National Team from 1968-74 and the British Women's Team from 1971-74. In 1974 he accepted an invitation to coach professionally at the Jasper Place Swim Club in Edmonton, one of Canada's premier clubs at the time. He was appointed coach to Canada's Olympic swim team in 1976 and coached national swim teams at major events from 1975-83.

In 1977 John became Head Swim Coach at the University of Alberta and worked with many successful teams over the next seventeen years. During this time he merged coaching with academic pursuits and earned a Masters Degree in 1978, followed by a Doctoral Degree in 1982 in Physical Education (sport psychology).

John has served on both the Education and the Sport Science Committees of Swimming Canada since 1978. He has acted as a Master Course Conductor in the theoretical and technical levels of the National Coaching Certification Program (level 1-5). He has been a mentor to many young coaches, authored five books related to competitive swimming, produced numerous swimming and coaching articles and is an accomplished motivational speaker. He has been a keynote speaker at international conferences all around the world. In 1988 he was invited to act as a Bicentennial Coach in Residence in Western Australia.

In 1983 he was appointed sport psychologist with the Canadian Swim Team and has served as a performance enhancement consultant through to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
John has written books on mental skills training - Mental Skills for Competitive Swimmers (1995) a workbook to improve mental performance of athletes 13 years and over, and Mental Skills for Swim Coaches (1995), both published by Sport Excel Publishing Inc.
John currently teaches sport psychology and performance enhancement at both undergraduate and graduate levels in the capacity of Professor at the University of Alberta.

Forward by Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky

by Wayne Gretzky

Becoming a great athlete is more than just the obvious. Naturally, you must spend a lot of hours working on your skills. One must be obviously technically sound, always in the best shape possible, and mentally prepared to perform at your best.

For some athletes the mental side of sports comes naturally. For others, countless hours of hard work go into mentally preparing for their sport. Especially at world class level, all athletes are on a pretty even playing field. I believe, the athletes that excel in top competitions are often the ones who are a bit stronger mentally.

John Hogg's book guides you through the best possible ways to strengthen your mental toughness. Discover something new to work on each time you read the book.

Insights from this book can be applied each time you play or practice your sport. Try to put these mental skills into place, and you’ll have a great start becoming a better and complete athlete.

Enjoy the journey to success. But most of all, work hard and have a lot of fun.

Good Luck.

Your Friend.
Wayne Gretzky


Mental Skills for Young Athletes book cover

Front Cover

Mental Skills for Young Athletes back cover

Back Cover

  • Chapter 1 The importance of mental skills training
  • Chapter 2 The skill of awareness
  • Chapter 3 The skill of goal setting
  • Chapter 4 The skill of relaxation and energizing
  • Chapter 5 The skill of positive and productive self-talk
  • Chapter 6 The skill of creative imagery
  • Chapter 7 The skill of attentional control
  • Chapter 8 Creating and maintaining ideal performance states
  • Chapter 9 Creating and maintaining ideal emotional states
  • Chapter 10 Team harmony
  • Appendix 1 Advice for parents and guardians
  • Appendix 2 Advice for coaches

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Hogg, J.M.

Mental skills for young athletes

Printed book’s ISBN 0-9680008-2-7

1. Sports for children -- Psychological aspects. 2. Sports for children -- Coaching. I. Title 

GV709.2.H63 1997 796'.01'922   C96-910884-2

Originally with a copyright, 1997 SPORT EXCEL PUBLISHING INC.

Splash cover for Script and Screenplay for Mental Skills for Young Athletes
The Script & Screenplay ebook is an optional purchase to accompany the course.

The Script & Screenplay ebook helps coaches, teachers, group leaders and even team captains turn the story into a play or series of skits. Get a cast of characters among your students and have them follow along with the dialog and play-act the story. 

The second section of the ebook is the director's cut that offers additional context beyond the spoken lines from the story. 

Illustrations by Alex Labarda


from John Hogg

I would like to thank most sincerely the many coaches and athletes who persuaded me to write this workbook while at the same time encouraging me with their thoughts, ideas and concerns. Hopefully, you will all feel an important part of these lessons.

My grateful thanks to:

the sport psychologists and performance enhancers who have positively influenced my thinking over the years and especially: Drs. Cal Botterill, Murray Smith, Graham Fishburne, and Brian Nielsen, for their invaluable feedback while preparing this text;

the many athletes who have been a source of knowledge and inspiration for me; and the many coaches who allowed me to work alongside them and their athletes;

the many students who have forced me to articulate my thoughts and ideas and especially: to graduate students Jennifer Beeger, Rebeccah Bornemann, Cheryl Cook, Mary McKlintock and Janet Tingley who helped on the initial project; to Janet Tingley for her willingness to test the program in an experimental setting; to Rebeccah Bornemann and Asha Menon for proofreading the text.

My appreciative thanks to Tony Duffy of The Sporting Image for his photographic advice and to Bob Daemorich (TSI), Walt Taylor, Stu Petersen, Dale McNeeley, Jit Baran and Photo Bauman for the use of their photographs.

My sincere thanks to one of the world's greatest and most respected athletes - Wayne Gretzky - not only for agreeing to write the foreword to this book, but for his belief in getting its message to young athletes as soon as possible.

My special thanks go to two people who contributed in a major way to the book. They are:

  • Alex Labarda who has surpassed himself bringing all the characters to life with his magnificent illustrations; and
  • Carol McNeil for her very professional and patient preparation of the text.

Book Dedication:

  • The book is dedicated to my wife Sally, and our children, Duncan, Sarah and Lucy.

To contact John Hogg, use the form at


from John Hogg

For some time now I have been trying to find time to write this book for you. I really believe that the earlier you learn to improve the mental aspects of your performance the more likely you will be to reach your potential as a successful athlete, and the more satisfied you will be with your performance efforts. There is a tendency to separate the mind and the body. But the physical and the mental are interconnected. For a balanced performance you must try to develop the technical, physical, tactical and mental components together. However, I invite you to examine and reflect on the powers of your own mind and what great strengths you have hidden there. Remember to get to the next level of performance, it may be necessary to make some changes. Train your mind to be tougher, stronger, and more flexible. Set about making these changes right now.

Hopefully the content of this book will help you get to the next level. Read and reread its pages carefully, and perform the exercises diligently and patiently. This will help you sow the seeds in order for you to reap the obvious rewards later and especially when you are ready. Although the skills are presented in sequence you don't necessarily have to follow the suggested order. Rather work at what you feel you need now. Take charge and direct yourself. Discuss important points with your coach or parents and search the meaning of things for yourself. Persist with the tasks, use the lessons learned and include them into your daily training sessions.

Start the journey with our animal friends. Feel free to write or Email me to let me know how things are going. I know you can do a good job. I hope I have provided you with the opportunity to make a start on your mental skills training.

You can consider yourself successful if, after working at this program, you are more aware of the mental skills, know when and how to use them, and are actually using them both in sport and in life. This investment in time will provide you with greater performance satisfaction. Finally, here is a challenge for you. Write a story about a mental skill you feel is important using our animal friends by way of illustration. Then be sure to send it to me. Good luck in your future performances.

Sincerely in sport,
John M. Hogg

Privacy and Prudence

Privacy Points from the Webmaster

  •  - 218-400-1500 

Click to play


Hi! Welcome to the course, Mental Skills for Young Athletes at the Learning Management System, operated in conjunction with the International Swim Coaches Association.

  • I'm the webmaster, and my name is Mark Rauterkus. I live in Pittsburgh.
I wanted to talk about privacy.

Don't share things that shouldn't be shared. Keep guarded. A lot of these questions are such that it makes you think about yourself and then you can just type okay, and nothing else.

Write your answers in your head or write your answers on a notepad or a piece of paper. But don't be posting things online that shouldn't be out there.

Furthermore, what you might be thinking about today could change tonight or to next week or in the months to come. So there's not a right and wrong answer.

  • A weakness today might be a weapon for you for tomorrow. We understand that.

It is important that we ask these questions and the kids get to contemplate these things and even do some role playing and acting out.

Parents, you're also invited. 

Guardians, get a password. Come explore this with your kid. Maybe they could do it with you, that would be awesome. You could do a chapter together on your own and then compare notes.

Coaches, we want you to share these with your team broadly, but we don't need to have a lot of dirty laundry, littering all of the online world with experiences coming back to haunt you later.

It's okay to just skip through these questions when it comes to the online presence, but think about them yourself. 

So if you have any questions, call me. My numbers are on the website, or email me. Or go to your coach or your guardians or some professional.

We do want the kids to know that there's a big set of skills that can be applied, that can help them in their sports and help them in the rest of their lives.

On all good intentions, whack at it. 

This is a course that you'll be able to access for three years. At the end of three years, your data is going to be erased. And, if you wanna do it again, you just sign up again.

Go for it.

Points on Privacy

You've already clicked and agreed to  the terms and conditions of this web site and its course before getting here, but let's be prudent about privacy before jumping into the course and experiences to come. 

Personal matters are contemplated here.

  • Contemplate means look thoughtfully for a long time at.

Goals, strengths, weaknesses, opinions from your coaches and a long list of thoughtful challenges are enclosed in this process. Introspection, feelings, dealing with anger and buckets of emotions are part of sports, part of growing up and part of  the struggles to improve. Simply put, if you don't want to deal with the mental skills, then this course is not for you. 

Things change.

What was true today, might be much different tonight, next week and next month. Weaknesses can be turned to strengths. We can re-visit the course and its quizzes. Nothing gets etched into stone here. 

Right and Wrong answers exist for some questions, but not for all of them.

Points made about literacy and vocabulary have universal meanings. Those items can be put into a quiz and graded. Do you know what a veranda is? You may learn some things here. Pay attention as it might be in a quiz at the end of the lesson. But, no worries. If you get only a couple of points on the quiz, you'll still be able to advance. There are no grades. 

Be Guarded.

Think about your answers, but for goodness sakes, don't blab online. Global comments can be accepted here. Did you see a typo, then make a note. If you have something to offer that isn't hurtful, insulting -- okay. Type away. 

  • Money and Financial Data is NOT to be shared and isn't part of the experience within the course.
  • Passwords are NOT to be shared. 
  • Don't post people's names, yours nor that of others.
  • Don't answer questions with the online quizzes that make you feel weird nor bad. Skip over them. Talk with a parent or guardian when in doubt.
  • When and if you need help, do it in an email or phone call, not a blog or a comment on quiz in course.


Every good story includes characters.

The actors in the scripted parts of these lessons are cartoon animals. The actors have various names, strengths, weaknesses and prime pursuits in the sports world.

Group photo:

Group photo from the cast of characters in John Hogg's mental training experience.

Group photo from the cast of characters in John Hogg's mental training experience.

Cast List, by order of appearance:



#1 Sport

Obvious Trait(s)




Downhill & Slalom Skiing

Vision, Leadership

He / Him




He / Him



Figure Skating

She / Her



T&F's discus, javelin, hammer

She / Her



T&F's 200-meter race


He / Him



Triathlon (swim, bike, run)

Hard worker

She / Her



Ice Hockey

Weaving / tactically astute

He / Him



Platform Diving

Individualistic and poor sight

She / Her


Oral "Hoops"


Likeable, sustained intensity

He / Him







Crew / Rowing

Inner peace

She / Her




Can count to 3

He / Him




Balance, agility

She / Her





He / Him




Not focused when losing

He / Him



Recreational sports

Wise, wellness

She / Her



Field Hockey & T&F sprinter

Enter your text here...

She / Her



Rhythmic Gymnastics


She / Her



Ex Racing Thoroughbred


He / Him



T&F jumps


She / Her




Good starter / low energy

He / Him




Mature & Mother of 2

She / Her





She / Her



Soccer Goalkeeper


She / Her





He / Him



Short Track Speed Skating

Quick with laughter

She / Her




He / Him





He / Him




Power, meditation

He / Him




Powerful legs

He / Him

Mental skills story and lessons for athletes of any sport, especially those age 12 years and under

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