Sometimes the road to success is not the fast lane. Sometimes the best decisions you make regarding your child’s path in sports are not the easiest ones to make. We often forget that kids mature emotionally and physically at different rates, too.
As many of my readers know, I coach gymnastics and have done so for more than 20 years (oh dear, I’m getting old). Each season we end up with a group of athletes who excel – they have mastered their skills, are relatively consistent in their performances, regularly place in the top third during awards, and are learning the next level skills with excitement. We also have a group of athletes we call “bubble kids” – they are making it through their routines, getting average or lower than average scores, are not getting called up for awards, and are not as ready for the next level skills. Sure we could push them ahead anyhow, but that often leads to discouragement, low self esteem, and the development of fears.
When the placements for the next season come out, many of the parents of our “bubble kids” get a little anxious. They worry that their child is being left behind, won’t be with her friends or will be bored. But more often than not, when we have these athletes stay at their current level, one year later we hear from the parents that it was the best decision they did not get to make!
What happens is you get a confidence season. It is exactly what many athletes need to have. Not only in gymnastics, but it happens in all sports. How about your soccer player that is sitting on the age-up bubble? Do you push them ahead and have them play with the older kids? Sometimes, but giving your player the opportunity to be a team leader, top scorer, or just perfecting the basics more, will prepare them even better for that next level when they get there.
We just experienced this exact scenario with our son and ice hockey. He was at the top of the age bracket but so much taller than the other players on the team. We asked about moving him up to the next age bracket but his coaches really knew best. He needed a confidence season. And what a season he had. He scored more goals in the average game than he did in entire previous seasons. He basically became the team captain – got to be the one the little kids looked up to, and now he is without a doubt ready to play with the big boys.
So, don’t be in a rush to get your athlete to the next level. Let them be successful at the level they are at and take your cues from your athlete’s enthusiasm, emotional readines and the coach’s input! Your athlete will be happier, healthier and will probably stay in the sport much longer for it!
A few more resources on parenting your athlete:
- Just Let The Kids Play: How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Your Child’s Fun and Success in Youth Sports
- The Total Sports Experience for Kids: A Parent’s Guide for Success in Youth Sports
- Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids
- Parents of Elite Athletes Must Play Role in Preventing Overtraining By Dr.Lorraine Williams, TrackMom.com Many parents and coaches of gifted,…
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