The best laid plans of young athletes involves positive parental involvement, an environment conducive to learning, a SMART goal (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely), actionable plans, a good circle of influence and coaches that foster learning, developing, mentoring and teamwork. If we go back to the time when kids begin to learn and develop, they are surrounded by direction and discipline. Most parents, even if its not predetermined, establish a plan of how they will raise their child. What time they eat, sleep, wake and participate in activities are all being formulated. Parents begin playing games with their kids in a competitive or non-competitive environment that stimulates and begins to set the tone for future learning and behavior. This guidance and shaping continues as children age, yet we begin to enter areas where our best intentions in guiding our children can lead us down an unproductive path.
Behavior is formed at an early age and shaped by the results of reinforced behavior, positive or negative. Once our children are old enough to begin playing sports, we naturally share our thoughts on what we learned during our playing days or what we think is correct based on our observations. Regardless of what level of sports we achieved as parents, we feel that we know what’s best for our athletic child. This creates challenges than can interfere with an athlete’s development. The biggest challenge will be in the form of influence. Will the parents, the coaches, or their peers influence them more? Does the delivery style influence how the message is received? How does the credibility of the source affect an athlete’s degree to which they listen to one’s advice? For instance, if a parent has never played sports but is constantly giving input on what he or she believes the athlete should do, will the athlete consider that good advice or just a parent trying to control behavior? If a coach is constantly critical and focusing on what is being done wrong, will that affect the demeanor of his players? Identifying a young athlete’s goal, making a realistic assessment of what may be achieved and then developing a plan for the athlete to achieve these goals without parents interjecting their own goals will surely give them a stronger foundation for success.