The question is, how do we get coaches, and sports parents for that matter, to begin teaching young athletes instead of increasing their coaching intensity and raising expectations?
As Americans, we are going to have to come to terms with our new spot below China in the new world order of sports unless we are willing to change. Our focus on athletic development, or lack thereof, especially at the lowest levels, are allowing other countries to fill in the treasured gaps that once divided our country from competition in its long reign of athletic superiority. As wonderfully exciting as it was while it lasted, we, for example, cannot continue to expect or rely upon phenomenal athletes like Michael Phelps to keep achieving our expectations of perfection. As Jay Bilas pointed out, we are not maintaining our foothold of athletic world dominance and there are specific reasons why.
As Americans, when something is wrong we feel an overwhelming urge to fix it. Our intensity towards managing the problem increases and we do whatever it takes to right the wrongs. In the case of better developing American athletes, little in our "fix-it" mentality has changed. Youth coaches increase the intensity, parents raise expectations and children absorb the pressures as their needs, the very life blood of what it takes to build a Michael Phelps-like passion, are completely ignored. In the end, our methods of fixing the problem are all the more part of the problem and causing us, as a nation, to stand in our own way.
Where might we begin? Hard work and sacrifice are often thought of as the keys to achieving success. If this is so, why don't we, as coaches and highly-involved sports parents, learn more about the needs of the beginner athlete, how they learn best; and how we can better translate adult-like techniques into kid-friendly terms they can better understand? This, in my mind, is the source of the problem and a great place to start. Notice it is not an easy solution but the beginnings of a deeper, richer, more sustainable one that I believe will allow us, as coaches, sports parents and as a sports nation, to regain the global superiority created by our athletic successes.
Chief Fun Officer,
Jelly Bean Sports, Inc.