The Biggest Obstacle Youth Athletes Face Today

The Biggest Obstacle Youth Athletes Face Today

Before you opened this article, what were you doing?

No actually, take me through your process.

Did you open your email tab several times, then reply to your boss, then scroll food accounts on Instagram, then enter the hateful world on Twitter, then angrily tap away at your keyboard at some stranger, then do a load of laundry, then watch an episode of Stranger Things, only to end up at this blog?

Wow, that’s a lot of steps.

Okay, wait. Where were we?

I don’t know, I got distracted, too.

Are you still with me here? Or did you return to your email inbox, Instagram, and fight with a stranger on political issues on Twitter? Maybe you even tweeted at the president, then went to shop for personal development books, and then googled “How to Make Your Kid Less Anxious” and ended up here.

Ugh. Do I have your attention now?

Good. Nice to have you!

Before I dive in to the biggest problem youth athletes face today, let me back up a bit.

If you were to make a list of the obstacles in the way of a kid’s athletic and life success, what would you say?

Here are a few that come to mind:

– Comparison
– Jealousy
– External pressure (parents, neighbors, coaches)
– Self doubt
– Stress/Anxiety

Do any of these resonate with you? Your child? Chances are, you’ve suffered from at least one, if not more, on this list. And the root of all of these?

Lack of self awareness.

Yes, self awareness is the biggest problem youth athletes face (and adults, too).

And the worst part is, a lot of humans on planet Earth have no clue what it means, or how to practice it.

For starters, let me ask you this: when was the last time you sat with yourself? No really, like sat with yourself in silence, no phone, no computer, no humans, just you and your thoughts?


And no, Bunky, going to get a pedicure while checking your email doesn’t count.

And no, smarty pants, going for a hike while staring through the lens of a glowing screen doesn’t count either.

To that end, most humans ignore the self awareness discussion because they can’t be alone with their thoughts, tendencies, insecurities, and weaknesses in the first place. Like really, really alone.

This is all a recipe for disaster because they’re never given an opportunity to truly scrutinize, analyze, and take inventory of what the hell is going on inside their minds.

As author Mark Manson says, “self awareness is like an onion: there are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at inappropriate times.”

And it’s true.

Practicing self awareness forces us to unpack our fears, acts of neuroticism and insecurities. It has its way of birthing our inner demons to the surface, and can leave us feeling icky and uncomfy.

But yo, I’d rather lean into the discomfort, escape the distraction, and make strides toward who we really are.

Because this much I know: the age of distraction is a scary one. People operate on auto-pilot, whether that is waking up, reaching for their phones, checking social media, and responding to emails before the clock strikes 8:00am.

Where is the time for self reflection? Where is the time for setting your daily intentions? Where is the time to go over your values? Where is the time to take action with your values?


It’s easy for everyone’s minds to become mechanical drones of society.

It’s easy for kids to opt for that Instagram photo shoot with friends, rather than play outside.

It’s easy for kids to pay attention to the Likes, instead of athletic development in their backyard.

It’s easy for kids to aim for high SnapChat streaks, instead of high juggling records.

It’s easy for kids to lack awareness, and be devoured by distraction.

This reminds me of a time when I was walking around the Johns Hopkins University soccer stadium, and saw a college soccer guy doing a sprint workout on the pitch. He would run a few sprints, then plop on the turf for a half hour, only to be buried in his phone. Then, he’d run a few more sprints, and spend twice that time on his phone again.

For a workout that would’ve taken him 30 minutes to do, it took him over an hour.

As much as I can poo-poo on distraction, the good news is, we do have a choice of what we opt into. We simply need to be aware.

What’s funny is, people ask me all the time how it’s possible I pump out several articles a month, coach the crap out of a hundred youth athletes each week, and get in a hundred Pull-Ups a day.

I could easily stop all of that and play Fortnite.

I could easily stop writing this article and reply to Twitter trolls.

I could easily fixate on Likes and not serve my beloved clients.

I could easily binge Netflix and skip my strength training regimen.

But I don’t. Screw that noise.

So what do I do to maintain focus and productivity?

My answer: I avoid the noise.

At least the noise that doesn’t align with my values of coaching, writing, and serving my people. And this is when this whole self awareness thing-a-ma-jig gets so freaking cool: all you have to do is sit with yourself, in silence, ask yourself what you value, what you’re feeling, and then take action and spend energy on what matters to you. <— a book I recommend is The Power of Full Engagement

Adding on, I would ask yourself these questions:

– What do I value for myself?
– Where do I wish to go?
– What impact do I want to make for others?
– What things fulfill me?
– How can I dial in my energy for these things?

And going beyond the positive, because after all, self awareness is about facing the negative as well, ask yourself these questions, too:

– What triggers me?
– Why do these things trigger me?
– Is there a trauma from my past I have suppressed and ignored?
– How can I acknowledge my trauma and move forward?

Get clear on these. Because the more clear you get on your values, your triggers, and your dreams, the more you’ll be able to escape auto-pilot and say to yourself, ‘oh shoot, it’s probably not good I am drinking a six pack of beers while watching Dancing with the Stars right now.”

Or, you’ll be able to create magic of your own, instead of criticizing others on social media.

Or, you’ll be able to nourish your esteem and fill yourself with love, instead of burdening others with your emotional baggage and hate.

Or, you’ll be able to chase that college soccer dream, instead of focusing on followers and Likes on the Gram.

Become aware. Very, very aware. Moreover, choose what things you opt into carefully.

Trust me, the results are nothing short of amazing.

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