One of the largest barriers we run into when coaching athletic performance is helping athletes find the proper level of engagement for their level of commitment. There is no wrong answer, some athletes are more committed than others, some youth are more interested in the experience rather than winning, that is the beauty of youth sports – “participation” is an acceptable level of commitment.
As athletes become more involved in their sports, as they transition from the age of “participation” to the possibility of being offered college scholarships, the intensity level can change for both athletes and parents. This intensity has only increased with the recent proliferation of club sports and year-round leagues that emphasize the value of sports as a way to pay for the ever increasing cost of a college education.
All of that said, there are a couple of things that we recommend to keep in mind, to help manage the mindset of young athletes –
Don’t be afraid of your stats.
Athletes and coaches have a tendency to worry about poor baseline statistics. I’ve been in numerous situations where club and high school coaches refuse or prohibit outside performance testing. This often comes from coaches over hyping an athlete’s stats to better “sell” them to college programs. The reality is – at the collegiate level, there are no secrets. In the book Meat Market, author Bruce Feldman recounts a number of collegiate programs requiring that athletes run the 40-yard dash at camp to verify their speed because they didn’t trust the times provided. Getting your athletes scientifically accurate testing will give them a real idea of where they stand and open their eyes to the things they need to dedicate their focus to.
Not every athlete gets a scholarship to the university of their choice.
In reality, only about 2% of all high school level athletes will be offered a scholarship at the collegiate level. Though these numbers may seem dismal, it can really be more about finding the right fit than anything. Young athletes or parents can get hung up on Division I programs. Not every athlete will have the talent to play at the University of Oregon, but that doesn’t mean that playing at Linfield isn’t a great opportunity to play sports and get a fantastic education. There are nearly 750 NCAA Division II & III schools with 290,000 student athletes, 65% of which are receiving some form of athletic or need based aid. So while a NCAA Division I scholarship may be sexy, a Division II or III program may afford an athlete more opportunities to find success at the college level.
Is your athlete “interested” or “committed”
There are some pretty broad differences between the mindsets of athletes that are “interested” versus athletes that are “committed”, and honestly identifying where your young athlete falls on that spectrum is going to help set realistic goals and manage expectations. Athletics at the Division I level is essentially a full-time job. According to a 2012 CBS News report playing football required 43.3 hours per week; college baseball, 42.1 hours; men's basketball, 39.2 hours; and women's basketball, 37.6 hours. Because of the huge time commitment, as well as time away from campus, Division I athletes will often not be able to major in more rigorous degree programs like sciences and engineering.
It’s our belief at Northwest Fitness that keeping these things in mind is a great way to ensure your athlete maintains a healthy mindset and is able to have a positive sports experience that they can look back on for a lifetime. At this time, everyone at Northwest Fitness would like send our congratulations to Jared Delaney on his recent commitment to the Southern Oregon University Red Raiders. After evaluating a number of programs, Jared decided SOU offered him the best opportunities as a student and an athlete. We are excited to see him close out his final season of High School athletics, before transitioning to the next level.