I want to speak directly to youth athletes as well as their parents and coaches about a scenario I have seen play out a several times over my 15-year coaching career. This scenario is one in which an athlete is experiencing great success at a young age, winning everything he or she enters. When this happens, the athlete and those supporting him can lose their focus on the now and start to look ahead to what might become. With this, the athlete starts to feel an expectation that it is not ok to lose which ultimately causes him to implode.
The truth is that on the journey from childhood to adulthood, the youth athlete experiences tremendous physical and mental development. Due to this, it would be unwise to forecast an athlete’s success later in life based on a period before these changes. Doing so can actually cannibalize this athlete’s long-term success.
If you find yourself in this scenario, please listen closely as I want to present to you two things you can do to set yourself or your youth athlete up for long-term success. First off, focus on the now. Try not to think beyond this season’s goals. Instead, focus on making the current stage fun, age-appropriate, and rewarding. Second, talk freely and often about the importance of loses. Share with your young athletes that they will lose from time to time and that this is expected and ok. This is especially important as athletes transition from one category to the next (i.e. new age group, age group to youth elite, or youth elite to junior elite).
I hope you will keep this advice close to your heart as you enjoy your journey – either as athlete, parent, or coach – and that it sets you up for the most success possible.
Head Coach & Founder,