Youth Sports

Abusive Coaching

Abusive Coaching

Our voice as “Coach” stays with our athletes long after they hand in their jersey for the last time. Our words echo inside their brains, the good and the bad. For example, I remember when my high school volleyball coach spent over an hour with me after practice preparing me for a job interview and sharing tips on how to dress and what to say. I also remember when my eighth-grade baseball coach yelled at me from the dugout to “just throw fu$&%ing strikes” when I struggled to get the ball over the plate.

Family, First

Family, First

As adults, we have a responsibility to allow our children to be children. Why do so many parents feel the need to fill every weekend with tournaments and training at the cost of letting a child be a child? What about family time? What about letting kids hang out with their friends? These are a problem that is only being exacerbated by many people in youth sports, specifically the club coaches who promise that taking a weekend off, much less a few weeks, would be severely detrimental to the development of that player. That is just wrong thinking.

Kids are not mini-adults

Kids are not mini-adults

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.

Are You Brave? Empowering a Child to Find Courage

Are You Brave? Empowering a Child to Find Courage

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"

Confidence beats Complexity

Confidence beats Complexity

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.

How catching a Pokemon can help you win more games.

How catching a Pokemon can help you win more games.

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.

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 WinningYouthCoaching.com. 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 jamesleath.com.

 

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 jamesleath.com.

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="http://jamesleath.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/E60-Catching-Kayla.mp4"][/video]