Blinded by november Part 1: Youth sports affect athletes at every age

I had the privilege of working with collegiate student-athletes as a sport coach for eight years. I have memories of many road trips where I learned so much about my player’s personalities. I learned about what boosts their self-esteem and what motivates them. I learned about their families as they traveled to road games and stayed in the same hotels. I observed their values through their actions. Overall, I felt very proud about every single one of my 192 players throughout those eight years, much like how I believe a parent thinks of their own child. Coaches attempt to guide their players through life as a parent away from home as best they can, but instead of one or two or three children, the coach has 16 or more in a season.

In the effort to help each athlete in their journey through the 18-22 years, I observed so many qualities in them that needed to be mended, specifically confidence. While everyone may feel anxiety about various things in life, it is the confidence that is built within us which helps us navigate that anxiety and possibly turn it into eustress. This navigational skill is something that can be learned in the home and then applied by the athlete in the early stages of sport. However, raising a youth sport athlete and building confidence, takes a village.

I remember having team meetings at the beginning of every season at the conclusion of our preseason camp. Now that we had welcomed the newcomers and saturated them in our style of play, it was time to set up our team goals for the season. “Go to the NCAA tournament!”, “Win the conference!”, “Shut out opponents in the championship!”, “Be the #1 seed!”, would be the goals the team shouted out in our meeting as I scribbled their answers on the white board. “Okay, great. Great goals. But...”, I look down at my watch, “It’s August. You are all talking about November. What can we do today? What can we do at each practice? What if….WHAT IF…We didn’t shut out our opponents every game? Is that a controllable? How do you react? What can you control today and what goal can we reach today to help us get to where we want to go come November?” I could hear their brains calculating the information, being on the edge of their seat, hungry for success and blinded by the month of November. To my dismay, they were never taught that success can be measured in ways other than outcomes, and those measurements aren’t only needed come November, but in every aspect of life.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly. I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified from the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27






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