Which direction should I go in?
How do I get there?
Am I making the right decision?
So many choices
So many influences
Mixed messages from coaches and friends
These are just a few of the questions that many parents and students ask themselves in the pursuit of success in a sports career. The truth is, there is no clear path to anyone’s success. A major question to consider is, what is the objective? Where is the motivation coming from? This is key in determining which path to take. Is it coming from the parent or is it coming from the child? This is an important factor in determining the strength of the motivation (The Motivation Factor).
The age of an athlete is very important in determining which direction to go in. For example, a student at the age of 5, 6, or 7 years old typically will not have the maturity or understanding to know how to make these types of decisions. For children of this age, it is important that they experience as many activities as possible, so they can determine what they like best. This may take several years to determine. It is not uncommon for a child to have a passion for one activity and in several month’s make a change to participate in a different activity. This can be frustrating for the parent if they are trying to persuade their child to pick one solid destination.
I often tell parents that are clients in my own program that it is important that their children experience different activities, so they can experience as much as possible while they are young. We have many students in our program attend classes periodically throughout the year because they are involved in different sports activities which conflict with our schedule. I believe this is a positive way to approach where the children are going with their lives.
As a child gets older, these decisions become more defined. They begin to figure out who they are, and in many cases, determine what their likes and dislikes are. The preteen ages, especially for the boys, is a great time to start figuring out which direction they may want to go into. For girls, this decision may come earlier as girls tend to mature at a much earlier age.
Another factor to consider is the burnout and injury factor associated with students starting a sport at an early stage in life. Sports can be aggressive and physically demanding. If you are involved with sports, you are going to have injuries. It comes with the territory (Injuries: Prevention and Repair). The body, with all its complex physical anatomy, can only take so much wear and tear. The earlier the student begins to participate in sports the earlier the body begins to experience the impact of physical demands. At the higher levels of sport, the greater the impact of stress on the body (.
I often tell parents when they are considering whether their child should pursue a competitive atmosphere, I let them know that the earlier the children get started, the earlier their career may end. It is important not to rush this decision and I personally believe that starting a child in the competitive atmosphere at the age of 6 or earlier is not necessary for them to reach success. Not only is the competitive atmosphere physically demanding but it is also emotionally demanding. Most young children do not understand how to cope with this demand.
Okay, so the goal has been set and the child has determined what direction they want to go in. Now the decision needs to be made on what it’s going to take to achieve that goal (Setting Goals: The Path to Success). There are so many factors that go into play here. Is the sport offered by the school, or is it a club scenario? If the program is offered by the local school system, the child can participate with much lower costs and easy accessibility. However, if the program is a club system, the costs could potentially be much higher and accessibility more difficult.
In addition, the club programs may offer a higher level of coaching and instruction. These programs, in most cases, are for-profit organizations which make it more appealing for high level coaches. However, if your child is not at a particularly high level of sport, the club program could wait until the level of sport requires this type of training. Much like the High School football and basketball player who excels in their sport. These athletes may get the opportunity to progress at a higher level with a successful collegiate program.
A life in sports can be a great life. It can be very rewarding and teach lessons that can be applied in all aspects of life. Many successful athletes have become successful in their professional lives as well. Sports teaches discipline, focus, and an understanding of hard work to achieve goals. Whether a sports career ends with great success or not, the experience is enough to make all participants Champions.