As a father of children involved in athletics, coaching youth athletics and seeing countless young athletes in the clinic, I thought I would share with you a book I recently finished reading. The book is titled Sports Without Pressure: A Guide for Parents and Coaches of Young Athletes. The book written by Eric Margenau, Ph.D., touches on many aspects of the young athlete's stages and psyche.

Here are some takeaway points:

The Value of Athletics: Athletics help our children develop physically. Athletics teach cooperation and teamwork also helping a child gain acceptance among peers. Most importantly, athletics give the parents/coaches/family an opportunity to provide uplifting and positive reinforcement, whether the child succeeded or not. 

Sports should be fun: A high number of kids will drop out of a sport simply because of the environment. Prior to the junior high and high school levels coaches and parents should be focusing on a fun environment, that instructs fundamentals and a love for the game. You will not be able to chide or practice your son or daughter into the next big dollar contract. 

The book also describes age categories in which athletics should be as well as some accompanying psychological advice geared towards parents and coaches.  They are as follows; 

  1. The movement years 0-3 years
    • Introducing gross motor skills, walking, running, kicking, throwing etc. 
  2. The sports years 4-6 years
    • Exposing children to sports that they are physically drawn and equipped for. 
  3. Take the pressure off years age 7-11
    • Due to the physical and emotional changes taking place in this time period, Dr. Margenau argues that this stage is critical in not breaking a child’s confidence as they find themselves. 
  4. Whose life is it anyway stage? 12-16
    • Examine motives behind athletics. 
  5. The big decision stage 17+
    • Professional coaching and development or a recreational path. 

Be sensitive to your child’s signals to you.  Is he or she excited to go to practice or play catch, or is the child complaining that they are in pain, tired or would rather not go?  These can be small signs that will help a parent and child grow together.  The biggest takeaway from the book is to not berate, pressure, or discipline your child for athletics. In fact, it is detrimental to performance and can cause anxiety disorders. The best things we can all do as coaches and parents are to reinforce positive behaviors, leadership traits, hard work, and many others. Take the time to tell your young athlete how awesome they are and that you are very proud! 

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