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Setting Realistic Expectations Depends on Age of Youth Athlete

Puberty Is Developmental Dividing Line

Over twelve

In setting expectations for the older child, understand that, in general, they:

  • Are better able to handle the pressure of competitive sports because they have more experience handling competition in general, but are also much more inclined to drop out of sports because of the pressure of and emphasis on competition (especially girls) 
  • Crave social acceptance. Peer pressure starts to be more of an issue and can add to the child's stress playing sports.
  • Too embarassed to ask for help. They are reluctant to ask for help on technical aspects of a sport out of embarrassment.
  • Sports performance can affect all areas of life. Teenagers' lives are in flux, and performance issues in sports are more likely to have spillover into other areas of their lives (school, peers, home life).
  • Have an increased capability to self-advocate with their coach (by high school, they should be able to self-advocate without any parental help).
  • Get intrinsic pleasure instead of needing external rewards. They are better able to base their sense of self-worth on their own efforts and accomplishments instead of on external rewards (e.g., trophies). They are also now able to understand that trophies in sports aren't given to everyone, but are based on accomplishment and given only to the kids who are on the team that wins the championship.
  • Need extra parental support to deal with the painful realities of adolescence (changing bodies, awkwardness, peer pressure, etc.).

Adapted from Brooke de Lench's book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins 2006).


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