Lets face it, young athletes don't really know what it is they want. Well, they do, but they don't.
Athletes at younger ages have a very difficult choice to make. Do I work hard to develop myself as an athlete - even if it comes at high cost to my social, personal, and free times? Or do I do what's asked of me in the moment and just hope the pieces fall in the right place?
These questions become increasingly difficult when volunteer coaches decide that its either "their way or the highway" despite being lightyears behind in actually striving to develop athletes, from nutrition to performance to skill and everything in between.
The reality is, you have few volunteer coaches and many athletes. Its far too difficult to individualize development for these athletes, and yet when the athlete seeks other avenues for betterment, it comes at the cost of ridicule, loss of playing time, and at times, ostracism.
So the question becomes 'Why is Development So Difficult?" in these populations.
1. Lack of Genuine Desire or Drive to Become the Best
One thing you always see in a sporting event is the culmination of work that got those athletes to that moment in time. Many do not understand this. They merely see people who are more "gifted," "talented," and "genetically blessed." This line thinking isn't complex enough.
Is it true that there may be underlying physiological factors that contribute to where these athletes are in this moment in time? Absolutely! However, not having reverence for the level of work that they've put in day and and out, added to the sacrifices they've made along the way is simply negligent to truth.
Athletes who want to be the best strive for it constantly. Kobe, Tom Brady, and JD Martinez didn't become the athletes they are solely based on physiological giftedness. They worked endlessly to better themselves at their craft. Their nutrition, training, skill work, and recovery are all things they took incredibly seriously. As Kobe once said, "To be the best you have to sacrifice (at times) being a good brother, son, dad, friend." While I don't necessarily agree fully with this statement, there's an underlying truth there.
You cannot become the best athlete in your respective field of play if you are not willing to give up time to do extra preparation.
2. The Condemnation of Coaches
I have much anecdotal experience to corroborate the claims I am about to make on this subject. Although coaching is absolutely a thankless job at the younger levels, there is an element to neuroticism that is transcendent over these individuals. They run their programs in a unilateral, communistic fashion where they use their power to convey a message of prosperity for those who listen, and removal of those who do not.
Is this to say thats completely unwarranted? Of course not! If there is a moralistic adherence to rules in place and athletes do not follow them, they are then subject to the consequence of their actions - as they should be!
When an athlete wants to train physically or develop their skill in a private industry, is that grounds for condemnation and ridicule? I should certainly hope not! It completely destroys the desire for athletes to continue their search for answers to grow when they are constantly told that they are good enough where they are and don't need help from anyone else except their part time coach who teaches 5 classes of Biology a day.
3. Unrealistic Expectations or Unawareness
As an athlete, there should always be a level of skepticism when approaching new techniques, concepts, and methods. A common mantra we have at Elevated Performance is, "Of methods there are many, but principles - there are few," which is a quote from Emerson.
We are always striving to teach principles. Principle based systems work, because they allow the coach to find the method that works best for the athlete. Before I get derailed into that rabbit hole, lets bring it back a bit.
The thought here is that athletes need to be encouraged to learn, and more importantly, think for themselves. If you cannot think. you will never be able to move freely about the world.
Many athletes we've seen have an unrealistic expectation (leading us back to point 1), are grossly unaware of what is required from them in order to get where the claim they want to go, or simply are not trained to be searching for avenues of development outside their immediate scope of practice.
It is important to have an assessment of yourself. Understanding where your deficiencies lie among both your peers and those who are ahead of you. This is the only way you will break free from your current level of analysis and realize what steps are necessary to accomplish that which you desire to obtain.
Developing athletes is so difficult because there are many factors inhibiting the progression. However, the athletes we work with who are willing to sacrifice the time to train, monitor their nutrition, recover properly, build mental tenacity against coaches who demean and ridicule, and who are aware of their limitations tend to be those who successfully go on to play at higher levels.
If you are willing to put in the work, there is a place for you to begin you progress to your desired destination. Let's get to work!