06 Feb An Open Letter To Coaches Who Coach Teenage Athletes
Be grateful you have the opportunity to coach teenage athletes – to inspire them, to build them up, to help them reach their dreams, to develop their strength and speed, to keep them healthy, and to leave an empowering imprint.
Even after sports end, your impact and message have the power to permeate into the rest of their lives.
Perhaps you’re teaching them to help others.
Perhaps you’re encouraging them to do well in school.
Perhaps you’re giving them the confidence to take risks.
Perhaps you’re showing them how to fail and do better next time in the face of adversity.
Perhaps you’re letting them know the gems inside of them, when they don’t see it themselves.
Teenage athletes are a rewarding group, no doubt. They’re smart. They’re malleable. They’re clever. They’re aware.
Everything you do and say doesn’t go unnoticed, so choose wisely how you treat them.
Yes, we have to challenge them. We have to push them to become better athletes. We have to ensure they’re getting better at their sport.
But at what expense?
Are you being degrading, abusive, and toxic? Are you yelling profanity as you point out a rolling list of mistakes they made in a game?
Or are you being uplifting, strong, and tough loving so they grow as athletes and humans? Are you letting them know the made a mistake, yet providing an actionable solution and teaching them an alternative?
To that end, they need your guidance. They need your instruction. They need your wisdom.
Even beyond the mental, they need you to empower them with the physical.
No, not to fatigue them for the sake of punishment and fatigue.
Remember, you’re working with humans – humans who are going through puberty, getting their cycles, and growing at rapid rates.
The endless stadium steps, full field frog jumps, jogging laps and Indian Runs, and burpees not only deplete this group, but injure them.
Yes, push them physically, but with careful, progressive programming that takes into account maturity, load, volume, and coordination and stability.
The last thing you want is a team of female athletes suffering patellar pain in the knee, or male athletes complaining of soft tissue, hamstring injuries.
Pay attention when an athlete says their knee aches.
Pay attention when an athlete says they had a tough week of exams.
Pay attention when an athlete says their IT band hurts.
Pay attention when an athlete has Severs Disease.
Pay attention when an athlete broke up with their high school boyfriend.
Pay attention when an athlete is in a growth spurt, and their speed slows down. Better yet, don’t berate them for being slow. Pay attention.
Pay attention when your team has chronic muscle soreness.
Pay attention when movement patterns look like a knee is about to blow.
And take action accordingly.
It’s paramount to strengthen, rather than tear down, the teenage athlete physically. Not only will they stay healthy, but they will feel empowered and confident to play their sport.
It’s possible to improve performance, without being a dangerous liability.
It’s possible to develop speed, without endless fatigue.
It’s possible to bring the joy in running and conditioning.
And trust me, you don’t want them to have a bitter taste in their mouth about fitness and movement later on in life.
Coaches, you have the opportunity to set these kids up for success, and to keep them in their sport for the long-run, and to leave a lasting impression on their lives.
You have the opportunity to treat growing, maturing kids with great care.
Remember, you’re working with humans.