As kids, sports are a huge part of our lives. This is a time in our lives when we’re trying out a bunch of different sports to see which ones we like the best, which ones our friends play, and which ones we are the best at. Plus, we’re also going to school on top of playing sports – so we don’t always have a lot of free time. This means that when we are spending our time at sports we want it to be enjoyable for us and that we’re benefitting from playing sports. So here are some tips specifically for youth athletes!
1. Make it fun! This is THE most important tip in this whole list – that’s why it’s first! If you aren’t having fun while participating in sports, then it’s not beneficial for you. If you dread going to practice or get too nervous to compete or get down on yourself when you make a mistake, it makes the whole experience not very fun. So it’s really important to try and have fun while playing sports! Look forward to going to practice and learning, get excited when you’re about to compete, and give yourself when you make a mistake – you’re learning after all!
2. Focus on the basic techniques. If you’ve ever watched college or professional volleyball, you know that the level of play gets really intense with jump serves, pancakes, and hitting plays. Although this kind of playing is really exciting to watch, it’s not always beneficial to try and do all of these things quite yet. It’s good to know that this type of playing exists because it gives you something to work toward, but it’s really important to solidify your basic techniques first so that you can build off of it and eventually get to that higher level of playing. Just think… how can we learn to jump serve if we haven’t learned to overhand serve yet? It’s all just a process but if you really commit to learning the basic techniques, then you’ll get there eventually!
3. Don’t compete too much. One of the more exciting parts about playing sports is getting to compete and it’s good to compete because it allows you to learn from your mistakes and boost your confidence when you win. However, you don’t want to compete too much. This is because you don’t want your sole purpose for playing sports to only compete and win games. You want to focus on improving yourself as well, which doesn’t always mean competing all the time. It’s really important to spend a lot of practice time and personal time just improving yourself. Plus, you don’t want to get burnt out from competing too much too early!
4. Be coachable. This is EXTREMELY important! Your coaches are there to help you learn, so it’s your job to listen to their guidance and try your hardest to adapt to any new changes. Your coaches just have more experience than you and they’re trying to pass their expertise and wisdom onto you and your teammates. BUT – if you’re resistant to their guidance or think you might know better than your coaches, you’re missing out on all their knowledge. Just be open-minded to new changes and eager to learn, and you shouldn’t have a problem!
5. Play other sports. Even if you’ve decided volleyball is your sport because you like it the best and you’re good at it, it still might be a good idea to play other sports too! This can help you because it’ll keep you active, especially if the other sports run during the volleyball off-season. Also, playing other types of sports help develop other types of muscles and motor movements that volleyball might not develop but that can help you while playing volleyball. It also allows you to meet other athletes, be exposed to different coaching styles, and experience different competitive environments.
6. Depth over breadth. Depth of learning means that you choose a few things to focus on and you commit to learning those things fully. Breadth of learning means learning everything you can about something, even if it’s just a little bit. Considering these definitions, we suggest focusing on a depth method of learning instead of breadth learning. We think it’s better to focus on a few focal points fully than try to learn everything at once and not get a full understanding of them all. Then once you’ve mastered a few focal points or skills, then you can move onto the next skill and eventually you’ll have a breadth of volleyball knowledge, but it’ll take time!
7. Realize winning doesn’t make you better – Improving does. This is 100% true, winning might make you more confident, but it won’t make you a better volleyball player. When you win, it’s because you already possessed the skills you needed to win that game, so you aren’t getting better per say. However, when you improve your skills that does make you a better athlete. For example, when you’ve been practicing a lot on your serves and you finally notice you’ve been serving faster and they are harder to pass, that is actually making you a better athlete. So, focus on improving yourself and your skills and we promise you’ll be a better player.
8. Develop strong minds! You can focus on your physical skills all you want, but you still won’t reach your full potential without developing your mind! Confidence – motivation – anxiety levels – self-esteem – team cohesion – recovering from a mistake – all of these things are part of your mindset and all of these things play a huge role in how you perform as an athlete. If we develop a strong mind as a young athlete, then we’ll be ready to compete at a higher level as we get older. Starting our athletic career with a strong mind will propel us to the front of the pack and allow us to stand out compared to our athletic peers and competitors.
If you’re a youth athlete, these tips can help you if you’re just entering the competitive sports world. But also, if you’re a parent or coach of a youth athlete, you should consider these tips as well because you have a huge influence on your youth athletes. Youth athletes are highly impressionable and capable athletes, and with the right guidance they can be great!
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