Love 3 min read

Let Them Play

It's time to take the pressure off young athletes.

While attending a pop Warner football game for boys ages 8, 9 and 10-years-old, I noticed significant changes from the days that I played football. The uniforms looked professional. There were six coaches for each team of 25 players. The stands were filled with parents, friends and other teams totaling at least 1000 people. While each team played exceptionally, coaches were yelling and criticizing their players. Parents and adults were yelling and criticizing the players, coaches and referees. After the final tick of the game clock, as one team won and the other lost, the level of criticism for the coaches, referees and players continued. For a moment, it seemed as though neither team had won at all.

Instead of the players being the focal point of the game, the audience took center stage, and the athletes joy had left the game.

I believe, from my 27 years as a strength, conditioning and speed coach, having assisted more than 1000 athletes to college, and many of these on to reach the Olympics and professional sports, it's time to help our young athletes play for joy. Here are three ways we may help:

1. Celebrate effort not the result!

When you celebrate effort, the athlete learns to focus on giving their best effort and finishing strong.

2. Practice to perfect your skill.

Games should be played with a free mind and in practice the student athlete truly learns the game by receiving critique as they improve their performance. This allows game day to be focused on passion and joy.

3. Show them love!

The student athlete should know that you love them for being themselves and not because they play a sport.

When I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s we played whichever sport was in season: football, basketball, baseball, kickball, until we could play no more and rarely under the watchful, critical eye of an adult. We eventually perfected our skills and gained confidence to play our selected sport in college.

Think about how you played as a child, then give your young athlete the gift of playing for joy and to find their own greatness!


Erich C. Nall is Owner and Founder of Ultimate Transformations Training in Los Angeles, CA. He is also the author of 21 Days to Health and Wellness. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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