Kids will participate in sports for three main reasons; to be social and nurture friendships, for the pure love of and fun of playing, and to be better and develop an ability to play at a desired level. These are not exclusive, and all three should be achieved in support of each element. For those who prioritize wanting to be better, the following is a great extract from ‘Peak – Science from the New Science of Expertise’ (Ericsson and Pool, 2017) *.
The following is from Ray Allen, NBA All-Star, and one of the leagues greatest three-point shooter. In an article a sports journalist stated Allen was born with a gift, Allen’s response was one we often forget about with elite performers.
“I’ve argued this with a lot of people in my life. When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot it really p****s me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t underestimate the work I’ve put in every day’. Not some days, every day. Ask anyone who has been on a team with me who shoots the most… the answer is me”
It goes on to note that in High School his shooting did not stand out amongst others and was in fact poor. Allen was dedicated and committed to improving and took control over what he could do to improve and transformed his shooting into a ‘gift’.
By sharing this with parents and players, we can take a few golden points from this. Firstly, young prodigies are few and far between, most elite performers are late developers, and this is supported throughout research literature. Secondly, you must put into something what you want to get out, being committed to a process of growth will be rewarding in the long term, embracing the process over immediate outcome. To be the best, be open to failure with a growth mindset to keep growing but work towards the short-term goal in a long-term process to achieve a high level of performance.
This links in to confidence. It’s often perceived that confidence is a result of winning, but this is confused with the immediate gratification of a result. Confidence is the result of recognizable growth while engaged in a process of development. We will soon be playing games again as the playing season kicks off. It is incredibly important that coaches, players, and parents, remember that these are not adult games or an adult environment, but a learning experience youth the youth player. Setting process driven goals will prioritize the individuals pathway, and confidence will increase as the individual recognizes that they are improving. This is where our language as adults is incredibly important, and the message we send can have lasting implications for the youth athlete.
* ‘Peak’ is a book that expands on Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is incredibly successful in developing fine skills from very young ages but must be utilized in team sports at an age-appropriate stage in development, so deliberate and free play can still dominate the younger ages to nurture a love of the game and empower the individual athlete in decision making. See more about deliberate play and balancing this with deliberate practice in later stages of invasion game player development. https://www.fremontyouthsoccer.com/2021/08/week-2-review/