Archive for “Peak Performance” Tag

Training Young Athletes: Are You Coaching an Entitled Child?

 

Motivating When Training Young Athletes

Training young athletes IYCA youth fitness specialist

 

By Melissa Lambert

 

As coaches you can all think of a time when a parent or young athlete has approached you demanding they start and play the entire game. Whether they deserve that level of recognition or not, in their eyes they will be a professional athlete some day and the expectation is that you cater to their needs. One of the most difficult aspects of coaching can be motivating young athletes to compete at peak performance not only as individuals but as a team. Conversely, when you have young athletes who feel entitled and need to be in the limelight all the time, you can expect a bigger challenge. An entitled child or athlete feels like he or she should receive without giving and working. This child often refuses to hear the word no and will lash out. Other signs of entitlement include not taking turns, impatience, putting themselves first, lack of compassion, tantrums and minimal manners.

 

These childhood or adolescent behaviors are not innate; they have been shaped by their environment. They are a result of over-parenting and giving children too much without earning it. Coaches can only foster the environment during the time in which they are working with the athletes, however they still play a critical role in overall physical and emotional development. The problem with giving children everything they want is building false expectations that needs and desires will be at the center of future relationships whether it would be with friends, coaches, teachers or a significant other. If you put into the perspective of a high school athlete, how might he or she handle getting beat out of a position by their own teammate? The entitled athlete will come up with a million excuses for why they deserve to be playing and will quit the team instead of fighting for that position back.

 

The number of children with high skill and low motivation I see when training young athletes is increasing and the philosophy of coaching our current generation of youth needs to change in developing future elite athletes.

 

Coaches need to be mindful not to set-up athletes to fail by giving them the preconceived notion they will become the next all-star young athlete in order to meet their desired outcome.

 

What you need to know to about coaching and training young athletes:

 

Over-coaching hurts a child’s confidence and underestimates an athlete’s ability.

 

It’s a similar concept to over-parenting when your role is to provide the necessities without over indulging. Athletes need opportunities to learn for themselves and make their own mistakes. It is easy to find yourself catering to a child who always seems to have a problem whether it’s pain, hunger or needing a water break every 10 minutes. Make sure you set firm expectations and limits from the beginning and make team values a precedence. If an athlete shows up late to practice they should know ahead of time what the consequence is. You should also encourage your athletes to problem-solve their own questions or challenges rather than doing it for them. This allows for autonomy and exploration. Trust that your athletes can handle a difficult situation independently or as a team while providing guidance when needed.

 

Focus on the resilience of an athlete – their ability to cope with stress and adversity.

 

It’s much easier to say no to an athlete with a mind set that he or she will become a stronger individual in the long run. I am sure we can all think of an athlete that cracks under pressure or loses composure at the thought of failure. A child or athlete who is entitled tends to lack resiliency, which frequently results in poor performance in challenging situations. Create opportunities through competition and teach the importance of responsibility in growth. In order to affect change when training young athletes, an athlete needs to take ownership and acknowledge a change needs to be made. The more athletes are put in difficult situations during practice, scrimmages, etc. the greater their ability to handle adversity in a game situation. Use narcissism, giving-up and low motivation as teaching tools during practice to break out of habits while positively reinforcing appropriate behaviors through praise or additional playing time.

 

Don’t reward or compliment children for unfitting attributes.

 

Studies indicate that children who are complimented for everything don’t benefit from being positively reinforced by praise. You build false hope in an athlete if you tell them they are doing well at something when they are not. This will result in a greater sense of disappointment later in life when reality sets in. Coaches need to teach young athletes that mistakes are necessary to become better and use weaknesses as coaching opportunities for improvement. Don’t make athletes feel like they need to be exceptional all the time by using unsubstantiated appraisals.

 

Coaches are not only an intricate part of athletic development but also help build a foundation for everyday life skills. It is crucial to allow for autonomy and avoid doing everything for your young athletes. They need to be able to handle adversity and effectively cope when challenges arise. Most importantly when training young athletes, encourage them to build off weaknesses instead of giving false hop resulting in future disappointment.

 

Melissa Lambert, M.Ed, LPC, YFS1, HSSCC, YNS
Child and Adolescent Therapist
Program Director – Connecticut Coast Soccer Performance Training Clinic

 

 

Why Performance Training Alone isn’t enough For Young Athletes

 

By Melissa Lambert

Young athletes require more than physical training

As a former collegiate athlete, I remember spending my off seasons training every opportunity I had including weight lifting, running and playing with the men’s team to increase my speed of play. I took pride in having the top times in running and physically being able to outplay others. However, I remember playing our rival team and making a huge mistake that could have resulted in the other team scoring. What could have possibly gone wrong when I was in the best shape of my life? I neglected the most significant component of an athlete; my mind. The mental aspect of any sport can make or break a talented athlete regardless of their training regiment. I didn’t spend nearly the amount of time training my mind as I did training my body.

It wasn’t until becoming a girls’ premier soccer coach and a licensed therapist that I realized how much of performance was based on mental skills. More of my time was spent off the practice field counseling my young athletes than actually playing. Coaches expect players to be ready to perform and leave all baggage behind, but if the athlete lacks mental toughness they will not see peak performance. Sport Psychologist, Gary Mack, defines the seven characteristics associated with mental toughness:

Competitive: An athlete who does whatever it takes to win and will go the extra mile for a team. As a coach or fitness professional, observe whether your athletes’ fight for the ball after making a mistake or give-up.

Confident: An athlete believes he or she can’t be stopped. These athletes believe in their abilities and don’t allow self-defeating thoughts to take over.

Control: Mentally tough athletes have control of their emotions and behaviors. They won’t allow coaches, players and parents to get into their head.

Committed: An athlete who is highly motivated will avoid letting outside distractions deter them from their goals. As a coach it’s important to observe the commitment of each individual athlete to themselves and to their team.

Composure: Mentally tough athletes who can deal with adversity and stay focused under pressure. Those athletes who lack faith in their abilities have more trouble managing their emotions.

Courage: Athletes who believe in themselves are more likely to take a risk. In order to improve individually and as a team an athlete must step out of their comfort zone.

Consistency: An athlete can play their best on the worst day. They possess inner strength to block thoughts that would negatively impact performance.

What coaches don’t realize is how much work goes into developing mentally tough young athletes and the impact of environmental influences. The most significant factor in preventing an athlete from being mentally tough is known as negative cognitions or thoughts.
As humans we all have core beliefs about the way we see ourselves, others and the world based on life experiences.
Young athletes who lives in the inner city is going to see the world differently than other young athletes who lives in a rural environment.

A therapeutic tool I commonly use with both my young patients and athletes is cognitive mapping. The athlete would identify a series of events, followed by their thoughts, feelings, behaviors and consequences. The athlete would be able to visually see how a particular event led to a specific thought.
For example, a 13 year old male basketball player missed the winning foul shot and thought he must be a horrible athlete. As a result he may have felt depressed or angry, which resulted in giving up. The consequence was sitting the bench for not working hard after making a mistake. However, if the athlete was able to recognize the belief “I am a horrible athlete” as being irrational and change his thought about the experience, his feeling would also change.

 

Coaches can support their young athletes by encouraging them to set daily or short-term goals that are measurable.

Children specifically like to set long-term goals like winning a conference championship or setting new personal records but lack action steps to get there. As a coach, be sure to know the goals of your young athletes and check in frequently on their progress.
It is also important to stress the power of control each athlete carries as an individual and as a team. It is guaranteed mistakes will be made; however are your young athletes responding by working harder or giving up? Mentally tough young athletes have the ability to control their thoughts from becoming self-defeating.
A baseball pitcher may walk a batter, but how he perceives the situation will impact the outcome of his next series of pitches.
Coaches play an intricate role in helping to develop mentally sound athletes at any level whether it’s recreational or an elite program. Studies have proven that mental training will not only enhance performance and improve productivity but increase one’s passion or enjoyment of the sport. However, achieving inner excellence takes time and effort in the same manner as physical training.

One of the biggest mistakes coaches make is having the need to improve performance solely through training and play. Realistically, ask yourself whether it’s your need that’s getting met or the need of your Young Athletes. If you coach a high school team and have practice the week of finals, be attentive to their emotions and take time to address what’s on their mind. Performance training and talent can only go so far without the ability to conquer self-defeating thoughts.

 

young athletesMelissa Lambert
LPC, M.Ed, YFS1, YNS, HSSCS
Child and Adolescent Therapist