Stay In Love with Sports

By Codi Warren | Sept. 09, 2013, 1:13 p.m. (ET)

Brought to you by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.  

The season is over.

Goals have been reached. Foes vanquished. Scores settled. Traditions upheld. Friendships fortified.

And personal growth continued. With still so much room left for improvement.

To succeed at any and all levels of competition in our modern athletic era, you’ve got to be ready and willing to always seek out a new edge. Your training must not only be innovative, but enduring. It’s often said that in today’s athletic landscape, “there is no offseason”.

But should even young athletes follow this maxim to the letter? Or should they be encouraged to take an extended break – especially following physically, mentally and emotionally grueling and pressurized seasons in tough sports like softball?

And if and when young athletes do decide to continue their training, should they do so with private coaches and trainers, with a friend in a weight room and on a track, or as part of a team in an entirely new sport?

This month the team at Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports along with the experts at Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) take a closer look at how Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sport Parents alike can make sure their kids stay active and passionate about their sport all throughout the offseason.

Do You Need An Offseason?

Today’s athletes are encouraged and often required to play, practice and train seemingly 24/7, 365 days a year.

But whether you’re a world-class Olympian or a teenager striving to make the JV team, burn out is a very real thing. Not just for the athletes themselves, either. Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sport Parents can easily find themselves feeling burnt out, due to the heavy investments of time, energy, emotion and focus required in competitive athletics.

Should there be an offseason? Should we as Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sport Parents insist on an offseason?

Of course, strong arguments exist on both sides of this valuable debate. On the side of those advocating for a true offseason are coaches and parents who have seen and heard the very real examples of young athletes suffering burnout or even worse, injury, as a result of too much athletic activity.

On the other side of the debate, the argument about avoiding specialization at an early age leads many of us to enroll our children in several sports…as they seek to “sample” what’s out there. And how can anyone sample and experience new sports, along with different teams with different teammates and coaches, if they don’t embrace the idea of competing during multiple sports seasons? Add to that mix all the arguments and measurable data that support everything from better health to better grades to better esteem when kids play and participate in sports. If we embrace all of these wonderful outcomes from a youth sports experience, shouldn’t we support our kids to embrace the maximum level of exposure to all of this “goodness”?

The experts at Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) grapple with these and other issues every day while working with coaches, athletes and parents. And their advice to Responsible Coaches and Responsible Parents seems quite sound to us:

Listen to your kids.

Listening to your kids in a Responsible Sports way can be broken down into a few different components:

  • Sit down and talk about their goals, as opposed to your goals, for their youth sports experience. Pay attention as much to not just what they say, but what they DON’T say…and the unwritten message in their body language.
  • Talk about how your child can focus on effort and learning rather than on winning as a way to ensure their self-betterment and enjoyment are at the focal point of your child’s youth sports experience.
  • Talk before the season starts, before a game, after a game, and at the end of the season. Bottom line: talk. Keep the dialogue open, truthful and ongoing.

“Goodness” for each of us in youth sports is personal, and comes from the dialogue more than the outcome. And thanks to Positive Coaching Alliance, we’re proud to serve up some tools and ideas for how to foster this kind of dialogue.

How can Responsible Coaches and Responsible Sports Parents help their kids stay in love with sports?

For more information on how you can help your young athletes keep their training methods and passion fresh all offseason long the Responsible Sports way, visit ResponsibleSports.com.

In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports Program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.

©2013 Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.

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