Or... Preparing and Supporting Your Young Athletes for Success in Sports and Life
Adult athletes know that most of what you learn growing up in sports can be applied to life. As a parent, you can help to ensure that those lessons are learned. Here's 5 tips based on what I've seen from the parents of kids I train. I aim to reinforce all of these in my strength and conditioning training sessions!
Have Your Kid Play Multiple Sports
The controversy between athletes being considered a multi-sport athlete or not has been around for many years. Some argue that athletes need to pick one sport and direct all their energy toward that. The reality is that for “younger” athletes, being a multi-sport athlete is one of the best paths to follow to help them excel in the future. It helps develop a well-rounded athlete which, in turn, will increase performance at their eventual sport of choice. When training a multi-sport athlete, the majority of the speed/agility and the dynamic power movements will be extremely similar, if not the same. They will then naturally adjust them for each individual sport and, in doing so, become better at adjusting to new situations.
Make Kids Do Manual Labor (that's a win-win!)
By definition, functional training is intended to imitate moves needed for everyday life. As parents, if your child just finished a game/match or even a hard practice, don’t feel guilty having them do some manual labor. Just sitting around and “resting” potentially could make them more sore and sluggish. Doing nothing will relax their muscles, but at the same time decrease blood flow throughout their muscles. Moving around and staying active (not overly active) will increase blood circulation throughout the body helping to push out lactic acid and decrease fatigue in muscles. Bottom line, it’s okay (beneficial even) to make your kids take out the trash, even if they had a tough practice that day.
Have you ever witnessed a parent bragging about how good their kid is at a particular sport? Parents who brag aren’t teaching their kids to be humble, they are ingraining superstar mentality. Parents may not realize that when their child starts to play in higher divisions, the talent pool rises as well. They will be playing with athletes just as good, if not better than them. When that time comes, that kid will most likely not stand out as much simply because the average talent level is higher. When that athlete doesn’t perform well, they’ll get frustrated and upset with anyone; including the referee, teammates, coaches and their own parents. It all circles back to the parent who ingrained the thought of their kid being the best of the best. Teaching young athletes to be humble will go a long way not just in athletics, but in life.
Don’t Tell Coaches To “Kick His Butt”
Coaches are there for a reason, and for the most part, know what they are doing. Parents of young children can absolutely give insight about their child to coaches, but telling the coach they need to “kick his butt” or “work them hard” is always bad advice. Coaches are hired for many different reasons, all working toward increasing athletic performance and creating a well-rounded team with a positive work environment. The coach knows what is best for the team at any certain point in or out of season. When athletes are done with practice and they aren’t covered in sweat, that doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard. If coaches run their team hard every practice with no set rest, their bodies will not recover and in time, break down decreasing athletic performance. Working on simple fundamentals and technique work may be boring at times and not seem too difficult but when it comes to game time, the team that wins is the team that does the basics correctly. A young athlete should always master the basics before advancing.
Surround Kids With Unconditionally Positive People
Surrounding yourself with positive people is always a great idea, whether you’re an athlete or not. If you are often with negative people that doubt everything, then you’ll start to follow that path. Talk to your child about how to flush out the people in their life who are constantly negative. As an athlete, going into a game with a negative mindset, will most likely lead to poor performance. This is especially true of the coach. The coach on any team needs to be positive and show that externally. Coaches that degrade or belittle athletes are simply not good coaches. You may not always be able to choose the coach, so be sure to maintain an open communication with your child where they can discuss and learn that a positive mindset will end in a positive outcome.
Give Kids Opportunities To Demonstrate Responsibility and Monitor Performance
Athletes naturally want to be the best at their sport and take charge. To help kids get ready for this opportunity, give them small tasks everyday and monitor their performance reinforcing positive outcomes. If a task is constantly performed correctly, then slowly make the tasks a little more demanding and keep monitoring and reinforcing the outcome. This will help their mindset for when a “real” task is presented to them, they won’t get overwhelmed and frustrated. The best leaders develop this skill early in life. I use this building block method in any fitness training plan that I implement.