Youth Sports

Kids are not mini-adults

"Get the rebound!”

I scream at these athletes to be more aggressive under the basket, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. I have three of the tallest girls in the league and we are getting outrebounded! I slap my clipboard to get their attention, but it seems nothing is working.

Then, the plastic clipboard shatters into about ten pieces and falls to the court all around me.

I call a timeout. Embarrassed by my actions, I frantically pick up the pieces of my shattered clipboard. My sixth-grade girls basketball team walks toward me with their heads down. It is only the second quarter of the first game of the season.

“Girls, I am so sorry.” “Why do you keep yelling at me?” asks Halie. “I’m not yelling at you, I am trying to get all of you to box out and get the rebound.” I pause for a response. I get nothing but blank stares. The girls look back at me and say nothing. “Okay, a fresh start. No more yelling,” I say. "Let’s just have some fun out there. Randy, get a break and let’s get back to the game.”

The girls say a team break and I can tell immediately I have not only shattered my clipboard, but also their confidence in me as their coach. For the rest of the game, I try to win back their trust but I can see I have a lot of work to do.

We lost the game. The year before, the team went 0-10 under a different coach. It looks like I might be headed in the same direction. I kept the post-game talk to about ten seconds then released them to get on the bus.

A friend of mine came to watch me in my first game as a girls basketball coach. On the ride home, it is silent for a few blocks, then she turns the radio down and breaks the silence.

“Why were you so upset?” “I know, I am so embarrassed.” “But what did you want them to do?” “Just get a rebound!” I explain. "I don’t know why it is so hard. They are the tallest girls in the league, and…” “I know,” she interrupts. “Do they know what a rebound is?” “Of course they do!” What a silly question, I think to myself. “So, then what kind of rebound drills have you done at practice?"

There it is. Dang it! She was right. In three weeks of practice, I had not once taught the girls to rebound, much less “box-out” to make it easier to get a rebound. I made the common mistake of believing my girls would just inherently know how to use their height as an advantage. The fundamentals are never too basic to teach. I think of Coach Lombardi when he would start every football season as an NFL coach with a simple sentence as he held up a football: “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Thanks to youtube, I found some great drills on teaching rebounding. I apologized to the team for my behavior and asked for their forgiveness. They accepted my apology, and and with hard work and determination, we ended up in the championship game losing in triple overtime.

Every season, no matter the level of the sport, a different team shows up. Though the athlete could be coming from the same school as the year before, every season has its own culture and feeling. 6th graders are now 7th graders, juniors are now seniors, so on and so forth. A lot changes in a young athlete’s life between seasons, and as coaches we should not assume fundamentals are as sharp as they were the year before, or that the athletes are coming with prior knowledge. As an adult, I need to be reminded more than taught, and that is also true for my athletes. Repetition breeds mastery, and as coaches we must not forget the importance of the seemingly mundane tasks of practicing the fundamentals. The lesson I learned was to focus on the basics and make it easy to unleash my athletes to reach their highest potential. The next time I coached at that level, I took a very different approach from the very beginning. (Here is a sample of one of the drills I do everyday).

Start your season with a clean slate, and make sure every athlete understands the expectations you have for them and the knowledge to live up those expectations. Good luck, Coach!

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You Hit Like a Girl

You hit like a girl!

I was sitting in the bleachers at my school enjoying a youth football game when I heard those words come from a coach directed at his running back. Apparently, the running back was not being aggressive enough and as a way to motivate, the coach decided to use that sentence.

It wasn't the first time I had heard that sentence. I remember the first time I put on a helmet and was asked to tackle my teammate in a drill. I lined up, barely able to see out of my helmet because it had come down to cover most of my eyes when I heard the whistle blow.

The ball carrier ran towards me and I was terrified. I closed my eyes, opened my arms, and braced for impact. The wind was knocked out of me and I started to cry.

“Get up, Leath,” coach says.

I could barely breathe. My teammate helped me up and the coach walked over to me.

I finally catch my breath only to receive the next devastating blow, one that will hurt me much longer than the previous one.

“You hit like a girl, and now you are crying like one,” he says.
I can’t see through my tears and I try with everything in me to catch my breath.

"Go to the end of the line, and come back when you decide to man up!”

I was nine years old.

It was years before I realized how damaging that can be to a young boy. When a coach tells a young boy in front of his friends he is playing like a girl, that has the power to destroy him.

And more importantly, what does teach him about girls? It took me a long time to answer that question for myself. In that moment, I was taught that girls are physically weak; that crying is an emotion that displays weakness and therefore reserved for girls and that behavior won’t be tolerated.

Children get the foundation of their identity, beliefs, and values from the people they meet on their journey through childhood. Parents get the first shot at passing on their knowledge and experience to their kids, but as they get older, teachers, religious leaders, and coaches gain credibility in the eyes of the student and an identity is formed that will later define who that young person becomes.

So when Cam Newton expresses how it is "funny" that a woman can understand routes in football, he takes all the fall out (and he should have consequences for such an ignorant statement). But we forget that apparently the many men in his life were either silent on negative gender specific stereotypes or a more likely scenario is that those men encouraged male-dominant behavior. Yes, he apologizes, but how unfortunate that he even said it in the first place.

A great coach will take Newton’s terrible choice of words and use it as a teachable moment for young boys to learn that young girls grow up into strong women and the world needs both strong men and strong women, working together.

I think a great myth in America is that sports build character. This is false.

[ctt title="Sports do not build character unless a coach intentionally teaches it and models it." tweet="Sports do not build character unless a coach intentionally teaches it and models it. @jamesleath" coverup="9d460"]

Respect for women is learned when men model that behavior to the young boys who want to be just like their coach. As coaches, we have been given a transformational voice that, if used intentionally, can help create a future where we don’t repeat our mistakes. It is an honor to have that voice, and we should all be reminded that we will be held accountable for our actions for every athlete who has us listed in their phone as “Coach.”

  No written word, nor spoken plea
  Can teach the kids what they should be.
  Not all the books on all the shelves   It's what the teachers are themselves.
            -Ronald Gallimore, quoted by John Wooden
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Are You Brave? Empowering a Child to Find Courage

With juice and a donut in hand, Cameron and I are sitting on a park bench outside the gym where we just finished playing our second basketball game of the season. "Cameron, why don’t you shoot the ball during the game?” I ask. “Last year, my coach told me I wasn’t allowed to shoot.”

“Hmmm.” I pause. Take a bite of my blueberry donut and fight the urge to ask who her coach was so I can have a few words with that man or woman, but I snap back to the present and focus on the magnitude of this moment in this 10-year-old’s life.

“Well, you are my center… and the tallest girl on the team. What happens when you shoot?” “I miss…a lot.” She looks down at her feet, embarrassed by her performance. “So, what if I told you on this team, you are allowed to shoot, and miss?” “Seriously?” Her face lights up. “Cameron, do you want to get better?” “Yes.” “Do you want to help your team be successful?” She nods. “Then from now on, you are allowed to shoot.” She smiles, then looks away, contemplating her fate. “And if I miss…” “I don’t care if you miss, Cameron. I just want you to be brave. If you see the shot, take the shot. If someone is in your face, then pass to your teammate.” Cameron looks out to the field. I can tell I have sparked something in her. There is a competitor in there and I need to draw it out.

“Are you brave?” “Yes, coach, I am brave.” She straightens her back. I can feel the energy shift. “I know you are. These girls look up to you. I want you to know you can be brave during the game and at practice. These girls look up to you, and I trust you.” We clink our juice boxes, she leans over to give me a hug. The smile on her face in that moment is worth every minute I spent volunteering to coach that team that season.

The next week, Cameron takes her shot in the first 45-seconds of the game. It misses the rim completely and the other team gets the rebound. The team sprints to the other side of the court to set up for defense. Before Cameron can turn around, I am already on my feet. “Good job, Cameron. I see you. Do it again.” She smiles, gives me a thumbs up, hustles to the other side of the court.

We won the game, 32-14. Cameron had 12 points.

We didn’t win every game that year, but a child felt loved and gained confidence in herself. That is why we coach.

[ctt title="Empowering a Child to Be Brave" tweet="Empowering a Child to Be Brave by @jamesleath" coverup="g4C1_"]

Recommended Reading:

  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

As for you, my fine friend, you are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You are confusing courage with wisdom. Back where I come from, we have men who are called heroes. Once a year, they take their fortitude out of mothballs and parade it down the main street of the city, and they have no more courage than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a medal. Therefore, for Meritorious Conduct, Extraordinary Valor, Conspicuous Bravery against the Wicked Witches, I award you the triple cross. You are now a member of the legion of Courage.”

-The Lion formerly known as "Cowardly"

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A Coach's Voice

Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.” Like most older brothers, I was a bit of a bully to my little brother. I remember once in 7th grade my coach pulled me aside before practice to speak life into me that had nothing to do with sport, and yet I remember it still to this day.  “You know,” he said, “Your brother looks up to you. Maybe you could find a way to be a little nicer to him.”

I had heard that before from my mom and my dad, multiple times, even to the point where I would get grounded or lose privileges. But coming from my coach, it had a different influence over me. I’m not saying what my parents said was not important, or that when they talked I did not listen, but coming from my coach it hit me harder than when I heard it come from my parents. I wanted to impress my coach, as most young athletes do. He used his influence to speak to me, not down to me. It was a suggestion, taken by me to be a way that I could make this man proud of me.

Consider asking the parents of your students about what message you as a coach could help reinforce. Raising great kids is a team effort, and beautiful things can happen when coaches, teachers, and parents work together to help a child grow up.

As parents and coaches, we are in the business of creating adults, so the more we can work together, the better off our future adults will be.



Yelling vs Coaching

I stand in front of seven 6th-grade basketball players as I try to teach them a lesson in communication. <Opening Scene>

“Imagine you are on the playground 100 feet away from your best friend and you want to know if they want to join your game."

“Like jump rope?" asks Taylor.

“Sure, like jump rope. You yell out ‘Hey Tasha, want to join our jump rope game?’"

Emmerson interjects. “It’s not really a game, coach, we call it a turn."

“Okay, great, thank you Emmersen. So you yell out to them to take a turn using this voice [I raise my voice as loud as I can] ‘Hey Tasha, come take a turn.’

That is me yelling to Tasha to join us. Now, here is a different way I could do it [I use a deeper voice with attitude and frustration] 'Hey Tasha, come take a turn!’ I used the exact same words, but do you hear the difference in how I said it?"

Chase raise her hand, excited to contribute. “I do! The first one you were encouraging. The second one you were mad."

“Yeah,” Tasha agrees. “It’s like the first one you were yelling to us, but the second you were yelling at us.”

“Well said, both of you. Now, what is something I say during the game, a lot?"

“Get your hands up!" says Alex, our best defensive player.

“You’re right, I do say that a lot.” I look over at one of the shorter players who often forgets to make herself bigger by raising her hands in the air on defense. I raise my eyebrows--she smiles and puts her hands up. The team giggles.

“Like a thousand times a game, coach."

“That sounds about right, Maddie. Okay, Alex, scoot back 10 steps and yell to me to get my hands up. Camryn, you go with her and yell at me to get my hands up."

We yell at each other, to each other, the lesson is learned, we giggle, we high five, then begin practice.

<end scene>

Communication is dependant on the relationship between the sender and receiver. If there is a problem with the relationship, that will affect how the receiver interprets the message.

If the relationship is healthy and there is trust both ways, then communication will be received as trying to help.

If the relationship is rocky and trust is absent or has been broken, then it will be heard as trying to hurt.  

In my experience, the people who can communicate the most effectively often end up being the most successful in their field. I have heard it said many times that success belongs to the one who can tell the best story, and I agree. Former NFL Football coach Jon Gruden*, said he chose to study communication in college because he knew he would, for the rest of his life, need to be able to communicate a game plan to his players and coaches. I was in my third year of college when I read that sentence and it made so much sense to me that I literally changed my major to communication the very next day.

There was an unintentional side-effect of the scene described earlier. During practice, the girls got loud--real loud. They had now been given permission to yell to each other with the understanding that is was not to be taken personally. That trickled into our games and improved everything because there was trust that one person could yell in the direction of a teammate and not offend them.

During the game, parents are cheering, feet are hitting the gym floor, basketballs are flying, whistles are blowing, and music blasting. Any good coach knows they have to use a loud voice in order to be heard over these noises, but the better coaches know there is a right way and a wrong way to yell. More importantly, do what you can to foster trust between yourself and the athlete by taking an interest in their world outside of sport.

Teach your young athletes to know the difference between yelling to hurt and yelling to help and keep your own emotions in check. Use yelling as a tool and use it sparingly so when you need to get their attention on something important, it doesn’t sound like everything else you yelled to them.

*Gruden, J., & Carucci, V. (2003). Do you love football?!: winning with heart, passion, and not much sleep. New York: HarperCollins.  Amazon Link

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Confidence beats Complexity

In 2009 I was in my third year as the head coach of a very successful youth football team. In the eyes of the fans, they would say we were successful because we won a lot, but winning a game says nothing about the character of the team— the true measure of success. Those boys (and a few girls) were successful because they practiced hard, paid attention to details, and bought into the idea of playing every play until the whistle blows. For as long as I have been coaching youth football, my playbook has not changed much. It consists of 2 formations and 10 plays. I don’t focus on the x’s and o’s, instead, I learn new ways to teach the fundamentals. In coaching youth football, and I have found

  • complexity creates confusion;
  • confusion leads to hesitation;
  • hesitation leads to failed plays;
  • failed plays leads to defeat.

An athlete who hesitates will not be successful in the game of football, or in most other sports for that matter.

Here are a few reasons my playbook is so small: 1. Ask a 6th grader to raise their left hand and they will, about 50% of the time.

  • During warm-ups we do not do sprints. We get in the huddle and practice getting to the line of scrimmage efficiently. After the first week, with only 2 formations, most players know exactly where to line up, even if it is their first time playing that position. Additionally, the players know where those around him or her should lineup so they start coaching each other. "You're too close, scoot out." "Get closer to the line." "Put your other foot forward." The players begin to coach each other and create an environment where it is okay to lead each other.

2. A player can play a different position quickly because the play is simple.

  • The tight end always lines up on the right, every play. If I need someone else to play that spot, the other players can help police that player. Saves me time and because the players are helping each other, it creates a sense of ownership of their team.

3. I can quickly change the play before the other team can adjust.

  • Since the players are always lined up in the same spot, I can see an opportunity in the defense and change the play in less than 3 seconds. They approach the line, get set, and the QB knows to look at me before he starts his cadence. I yell, “Check, Check!” and 11 face-masks are pointed at me. I yell “Sweep right!” and every player hits the side of their helmet letting me know they heard me and they run the play. Of course, the smart players on the other team here "Sweep Right" and cheat to the right. But because they are facing us, they literally take themselves out of the play because their right is our left.
  • Before the coach can let his players know how to adjust, we are already running the new play. Note: some opposing coaches pick up on this and are able to let a player know it is coming to them. However, just because I yelled a play out does not mean we are actually running that play. My team knows only to run the play when “the sign” is given. You have to practice this, a lot. Again, we do it during warm-ups.

It doesn’t happen often, but one time I was approached head coach of the other team after the game and he wanted to talk privately. We had just beat them 35-0 despite pulling out all my starters in the second half. He asked me very frankly, “Will you give me your playbook?” We met for coffee the next morning and I gave him everything I had installed that year and things I planned on installing. We met in the playoffs a few weeks later and I could tell he had implemented almost everything I gave him. The only difference was that my offense had evolved as the season progressed so we had a little more to work with. We still won, but this time it was 21-8. He had the same players as before, but he kept things simple, his players were confident, and it felt like we were playing a completely different team.

[ctt title="Confidence beats Strategy. " tweet="Confidence beats Strategy. @jamesleath" coverup="ewcTB"]

The strategy is important, of course. As the age of the athlete increases, so should the size of the playbook. But a young athlete with confidence is his or her ability to do the job they have been given can overcome a strategy that might not be as advanced as the one the opponent has prepared.

The focus of the coach should be on creating confident, fundamentally sound athletes during the week. Then, on gameday, let them play. Give the athletes the tools they need and let them build a victory. When the game starts, it is less about coaching anyway and more about managing. If your young athletes can master the basics and they truly understand their job on each play, then you are way ahead of most youth football coaches I come across who focus more on tricking the other coach than on developing sound football players.

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How catching a Pokemon can help you win more games.

Yesterday, I was teaching a group of 10 14-year-olds about leadership and I told a story about the first time I learned about leadership. I was their age, and someone I looked up to handed me three cassette tapes by John C. Maxwell. Then a hand slowly went up. “Yes?” I asked. With a confused look on his face, he thought for a second and said, “cassette tape?” That’s right...I had to literally draw a picture of a cassette tape on the board. But, why should they know what a cassette tape is? Side note, I told them what a mix tape was. “Oh, like when you make a playlist for your girlfriend on Spotify?” Yes, like that, except they will never know the pain of sitting through a Keith Sweat song when the radio DJ starts talking over the last part of the song! I taught them a little bit about the past, and we moved on.

Today, I caught a Pokémon. On a walk with one of my summer staff, I pulled out my phone and fired up the PokemonGo app. "What are you doing?" asked Will. "Connecting to my students," I answered." An hour later, after I had a 10-year-old explain to me what I just did, I used it as an example of Followership. I now had 15 uninterested 11-year-olds on the edge of their seats because their teacher understood a little about their world.

Last week, while teaching a bunch of college athletes, I used Harry Potter as an example of how a great leader accepts help when it is needed and knows how to delegate tasks to those with the proper skills to get the job done. I knew they would understand because seven years ago, when they were in grade school, Harry Potter was all the little kids talked about. I read the books then, and now I catch Pokémon.

A few months ago, a few of my teams found out I was the guy on the Farmer’s Only commercial and it gave me instant street cred. I don’t know why it had that effect, but I used it as a way to connect to them. So now, when I am in the lunchroom and I hear, “Hey coach, you don’t have to be lonely…” instead of being annoyed, I smile and finish the song with them. They laugh, and in class I am that much more connected to them.

Connect with them and let them teach you something.

Find ways to connect to your team. Kids have not changed, but the world they live in is different than yours and mine. They don’t know about John Wooden and his pyramid, so asking them to be more Industrious will leave you frustrated. Your story about Joe Montana doesn’t resonate with kids the way it did 10 or 15 years ago. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was replaced by Jordan, who has been replaced by Lebron, who will someday be replaced by someone else (save your arguments about who I should have written, and just see the point I am trying to make).

Something I have done for years is to make sure I know what fiction books my athletes are reading in school. I especially enjoy it when they are books I read in high school, like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. They are already learning about that, so use it to your advantage.

Lastly, if you don’t understand the latest craze/technology/time waster, ask your athletes to teach you. Having an athlete teach you something they are passionate about (no matter how stupid you think it is) is a great way to build rapport with your athletes. Best part about doing this is you will be alone, because most other coaches would rather spend time on Xs and Os than learning about what is important to their athletes.

Introduction to Coach Notes

Welcome to Coach Notes! One of the greatest joys in my life is coaching athletes, especially young athletes. Over the years I have learned a few things and every season I find the same types of questions get asked.

Questions like, "When should my child focus on one sport?" or "How do I get my athlete to want to do better in school?" or even more practical things like, "What should I be feeding my athlete before/after competition?"

All great questions, all deserve the best answer I can come up with. 

I have some answers and some resources like this one that may help you as a parent. Why would you listen to me about parenting? One of the advantages to not having my own children is I am not biased to any one way of training, so instead I get to observe many different ways to help and can share them with you. The bride and I fostered last year and got a small taste of what its like to be a parent. If I can help make your job easier through an encouraging word or a strategy I learned somewhere, that is what I want to do.

As some of you know, I am finishing up my masters in Sport Psychology, and I am focusing on youth sports. I am dedicating my life to helping individuals become the best version possible.

I'm not selling anything here, I just want to share.

Every week, I will be sending out a short letter with an article about sports psychology, youth sports, or personal development. I will also include a few items about these subjects that I believe can benefit you, your athlete, or your team. Items like books, practical and/or applied research, or a YouTube video I found interesting. You can unsubscribe anytime- I won't be offended.

Also, I am writing a book on Sport Psychology for the Young Athlete, so I may share some of that content and ask for feedback. Other than that, my plan is to send you information I believe to be valuable for you.

For Coaches, I recommend a podcast by my friend Craig at If you listen to podcasts on your iPhone like I do, this is a great resource. I was on his show a few weeks ago talking about Mental Toughness for Young Athletes. Here is that link.

For Athletes, I ran across this YouTube video that was pretty motivational. Its only a few minutes so give it a look.

For Parents, the article I listed above is worthy of a second suggestion to read. With a title like "Best Parenting Tip Ever" how can you pass that up?

An Argument Against Single-Sport Athletes

The idea of single-sport specialization is a matter of perspective and experience. Any coach who has been coaching for 10 years or more will agree on one thing - their best athletes are 99 times out of 100 multi-sport athletes. As coaches, we see this with every new crop of students. Here is an article written about Urban Meyer, head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Coach Meyer’s ideal candidate for scholarship is not the exception; it is the rule.

As a parent there is a lot of pressure to make sure you give your athlete every opportunity to get better. The best teams, the best league, the best coach…but at what cost? The financial cost alone is enough to reconsider, but what about what your child is missing out on? Parents are so afraid their kids are missing out on something that they over-extend themselves and their bank account thinking one day the athlete will get a scholarship. They might; they might not. There’s a high price to pay to participate in that gamble.

I know -- peer-pressure is STRONG with other parents. But, here’s the thing; they are wrong. They have no idea what they are talking about. They are inexperienced when it comes to raising an athlete.

As coaches, we see what works and what doesn’t work. A parent asked me the other day what I love about coaching kids. My response, “They stay the same age.” When your 12-year-old son acts out on the field, I’ve seen it before. He is trying on manhood and I am going to encourage that, but give him the tools to do it without getting hurt. When your 9-year-old daughter is timid and won’t go for a loose basketball, I’ve seen it before. She hasn’t been told yet it’s okay to be aggressive, but once she learns how, she will enjoy the sport much more. I know how to handle those situations; mainly because the first time I had to deal with them I got it wrong. I learned from my own mistakes.

Next time you see me, ask me about the time I shattered a clipboard into 10 pieces during a sixth grade preseason girls basketball game. Yeah, we all learn from our mistakes.

I have almost 20 years of experience coaching ages 8-21. That means kids I coached in elementary school are now in college or have graduated. Every single one, without exception, played at least three sports in grade school and at least two sports in high school.

Every, single, athlete -- without exception.

The pressure from other parents to play one sport year around, and the coaches who live on the money you pay them, is very high. Parenting an athlete is the most competitive sport in America. 

This epidemic of single-sport specialization comes from athletes like Tiger Woods and Olympic hopefuls who, from a young age, only participated in one activity and they found success. Reminder: they are the exception, not the rule. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called “Outliers” that talks about a study done with musicians and 10,000 hours of intentional practice. Parents quote this as proof, but those parents who challenge me have rarely read the book, proving again they don’t really know what they are talking about.

When should your child specialize?

Once they hit 13 or 14-years-old, they should consider focusing on one sport. Even then, consider it a primary sport, but participate in secondary sports. I excelled at football, but still spent a season participating in basketball, baseball, wrestling, track, and volleyball.

Three Reasons Your Child Should Play Multiple Sports

1.Mental Toughness Gained through Adversity

When an athlete goes from being the best on the team in one sport to a role player in another sport, they get to learn how to deal with adversity. Adversity and learning new skills develops mental toughness. When they go back to their primary sport where they are the best, they are a better leader because they had to become a follower. This skill translates very well in the adult world.

2.Physical Maturation of the Whole Body

Parents, your child will have a better chance of playing sports in college if they are an athlete with 10,000 hours of athleticism. College recruiters don’t want someone with only one set of skills. Skills can be taught, but athleticism is earned through years of acceleration, deceleration, rotational power, read and react, and all the other things an athlete learns by participating in multiple sports. There is no single sport that develops all of these skills alone, and therefore no child should only participate in one sport alone.

3.Prevent Burnout

According to Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, “The number one reason (why they quit) is that it stopped being fun.”  Kids experience burnout in one sport, and with the pressure to always be the best, they end up missing out on childhood. Not only does the athlete get burned out, but the parents exhaust themselves physically and financially unnecessarily.

So take it from someone who wants nothing but success for your child – let them play other sports. Let them develop to their full athletic potential and let them experience trying a sport they are not good a superstar. The lesson they learn from having that experience will benefit them long after they hang up the cleats and tackle being an adult.




James Leath is a mental toughness coach with over 20 years experience coaching young athletes. He writes a weekly note to athletes, coaches and parents on subjects that pertain to sport psychology, youth sports, and personal development. He is currently finishing his masters of Performance Psychology and lives in San Luis Obispo, CA. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @jamesleath or visit his website


3 Reasons Your Child Should Play Multiple Sports 

1.Mental Toughness gained through adversity
When an athlete goes from being the best on the team in one sport to a role player in another sport they get to learn how to deal with adversity. Adversity and learning new skills develops mental toughness. When they go back to their primary sport where they are the best they are a better leader because they had to become a follower. This skill translates very well in the adult world.
2.Physical maturation of the whole body
Parents, your child has a better chance of playing sports in college if they are an athlete with 10,000 hours of athleticism. College recruiters don’t want someone with only one set of skills. Skills can be taught, but athleticism is earned through years of acceleration, deceleration, rotational power, read and react and all the other things an athlete learns by participating in multiple sports. There is no single sport that develops all of these skills alone, and therefore no child should only participate in one sport alone.
3.Prevent Burnout According to Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, "The number one reason (why they quit) is that it stopped being fun."  Kids experience burnout on the sport, and with the pressure to always be the best, then missing out on childhood. Not only does the athlete get burned out, but the parent exhausts themselves physically and financially unnecessarily.

James Leath is a mental toughness coach with over 20 years experience coaching young athletes. He writes a weekly note to athletes, coaches and parents on subjects that pertain to sport psychology, youth sports, and personal development. He is currently finishing his masters of Performance Psychology and lives in San Luis Obispo, CA. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @jamesleath or visit his website

Catching Kayla

Kayla Montgomery is one of America's best long distance runners, but that's not why this story is so amazing. She has been battling with multiple sclerosis (MS) since high school and it doesn't make racing easy at all. Watch her inspiring story of perseverance - it's simply incredible. [video width="640" height="360" mp4=""][/video]