To every sports parent, I say:
I hope your young athlete is enjoying their youth sports experience. I hope they are having fun, growing, making friends, developing skills, and learning valuable life-impacting lessons.
I recognize, however, that for many of you, the youth sports experience has become more serious. In the process of learning to love the game, your child has become very passionate about being the best they can be and they desire to keep playing at higher levels.
If that’s you — your child wants to keep pushing themselves and working towards the next level — then you may wonder, “How can I best help my child reach their potential?”
Some of you may be thinking:
I don’t know enough about the sport to really help my child.
I can’t afford all the private camps or the elite teams that they may need to really reach their potential.
I can’t fit in one more night out of taking my kid to a private trainer.
If that’s you, then I’d like to help you and your child take that next step to get them on their way to reaching their goals. I cannot tell you how to take the whole journey. You will figure that out as you go, as your child progresses, and as opportunities arise. But I can tell you how to take the next step in your child’s development as they seek to improve and hone their skills and game experience.
1. Look for opportunities for your athlete to play against older competition.
If your child is very competitive and ready to handle the challenge, they may be ready to “play up.” Simply dominating their peers will not benefit your child and help them improve.
This doesn’t necessarily have to happen every season, but if your child is not challenged, ready to really push themselves, or eager to compete at a higher level, this might be the next step that will help them reach work towards their goals.
2. Get honest and objective feedback that your child can use to improve.
This is where you have to be careful. Many private coaches are willing to take your money even if they don’t see much hope for your child really progressing in a sport. Before you go hiring an expensive coach or private trainer to help your child, try getting some free or at least less expensive feedback.
Talk to a variety of coaches who’ve seen your child play. Ask them what they see in your young athlete, as far as what they need to work on to play at the next level. Notice I said variety of coaches. If your child is gifted and has potential, it will be noticed by more than one coach. And if your child truly needs work in a certain area to really improve, that too will be evident to more than one coach.
Another way to get some honest feedback is by being seen by someone who does not know your child at all. There are a lot of online evaluation services.
3. Pinpoint what your child needs to be doing better to care for their body.
There’s always something your athlete could improve on when it comes to proper care and feeding of their physical body. Instead of telling them they need an overhaul from eating junk food, not getting enough sleep, and not allowing bodies to recover from the strain of competition, help them focus on one thing they can do differently to improve.
Maybe it’s to give up soda. Maybe it’s to get eight hours of sleep. Or maybe it’s allowing their bodies a day of rest from playing sports. Of course, the idea is to eventually do all that, but it’s not likely that lasting change is going to happen overnight. Pick one thing that needs to be improved and let it become a habit.
They say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. I’m not sure how true that is, but I know it takes more than we’d like to admit. Be patient with that process. Let it become a way of life. Then focus on the next step that needs to be taken for your athlete to properly care for their bodies.
I’ve seen this happen with my daughter who coaches cross fit. She has totally changed the way she eats and exercises, but it happened over a couple of years. It took time for habits to form. She didn’t suddenly start eating lots of vegetables overnight, it was a process. It was a habit that built over time.
So, as you and your child dream about future possibilities in youth sports, start working on the changes that will help your child’s body be ready for the challenges.
Why taking that next step is so important:
Every morning as I walk, I see this house that’s being built. I saw them lay the footers, install the plumbing, and brick by rick, build up the walls, then finally add the trusses and put on the roof.
They did not start with the walls or the roof, they started with the foundation.
And so, it is with your child. Someday, if they achieve their goals, they may be a college athlete, playing at any number of levels. But they will not get there this week, this season, or even this year. Their progress must be made step by step. And right now, today, this season, help them figure out what that next step is for them and then support them as they take it.