Today I want to take you through a topic that’s very close to my heart and that is the effects of pushing your teenage athlete too soon. My parents didn’t push me too hard, however, I pushed myself too hard. I think it’s very important that we look at what the effects, and the cost, can be If we are pushing our teenage athletes too hard too soon. We also have to know the signs if they are pushing themselves too hard too soon. There are some serious detrimental effects that can come from a teenage athlete over-exerting consistently. So, let me run you through some of the effects of pushing a teenage athlete too soon.
Not All Are Born Naturally Gifted
Not all athletes are born gifted and talented. Some are born gifted intellectually, and some are born gifted physically. Some athletes are not naturally gifted at all and they have to work extremely hard to achieve their goals. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It’s absolutely possible, but we must help them realise they need to work hard. In saying that, you cannot push them too hard. The teenage years are extremely important years.
Let Them Decide What They Are Passionate About
Not all athletes feel as passionate about the same sport, are interested in the same sport, or want to play the same sport as you, the parent. It’s really important you let them decide what they are passionate about, and what sport they want to play. Let them explore that rather than deciding for them, because that’s not the way to help them shine. We don’t want them to feel like it’s a job. They have to be passionate and interested in it themselves. If your athlete is not interested they will soon feel the effects of pushing too soon
Don’t Try To Relive The Past
If they are not passionate about something and you push them, they can end up with serious problems, mentally, physically, and emotionally. This will happen if we push them into something they don’t want. If they’re only doing it to please you, it’s not going to work. I suggest you don’t live, or try to live vicariously through your athlete. If there is something that you didn’t accomplish in the past, it’s done. Don’t expect your athlete to accomplish it for you.
I would love for my kids to have got into track and field. Track and field was my jam. I would have loved it. None of them did. I had one of my boys show interest, and funnily enough, he was great at cross country. I was not a fan of cross country, but he was really good at them. One day I watched him win by 400 meters running in leather school shoes when he was younger. I tried to get those shoes off him. He was a somewhat challenging child growing up.
My point is, its really important that you don’t expect your athlete to accomplish what you didn’t. There are many things I wish I had accomplished. I was supposed to be at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Because I pushed myself too hard and didn’t let my parents know about really bad joint and muscle pain I was experiencing, It eventually put an end to my Olympic dream.
I would have loved every one of my children to do track and field, but none of their hearts are there. They’re not passionate about it. They needed to find what they are passionate about themselves. Only then will they be able to truly shine. It’s something they love to do, not something they’re trying to make me happy about.
If your athlete does not want something as bad as you, do not push them. On the other hand, if they do want it as bad as you and they are very passionate about it, it’s very important you don’t let them push themselves too hard. Don’t let the effects of pushing your athlete too soon be on your shoulders. It’s not a feeling you want.
Let’s run through a couple of things. If you are pushing your teenage athlete too much, too soon, it can lead to overuse injuries, which, at the end of the day, can seriously debilitate an athlete.
I know this because I had a growing disease in my knee. I went a really long time with that problem without pointing it out to my parents or coach. This is why it’s so important that you can have those open and honest conversations we were talking about last week. You don’t want to be able to talk to you about what’s going on with them physically, because overuse injuries are major, they can put an end to an athletes career. Everyone’s different, every case is different, but they can put an end to an athlete’s career. The effects of pushing your teenage athlete too soon, can and will result in an eventual injury
Burnout & Fatigue
Along with the risk of overuse injuries, there is burnout and fatigue. The teenage years between 13 and 17 can be a really dangerous age. Overexertion and the desire to be the best are sure ways to burnout and become fatigued. The result of pushing your athlete too soon will drive them to burnout and fatigue rather than success.
Hatred & Resentment
A teenage athlete is also at a ripe age to begin developing a hatred for their sport. We don’t want them to develop a hatred for something they once felt so passionate about, because they’ve just pushed themselves too hard, or you have pushed them too hard. If you push them too hard, they may end up resenting you. And that’s the last thing you want your athletes to feel. That would kill me if my children felt that way. There is also the risk of suffering mental health issues and losing interest in sport altogether. Often, athletes who have been pushed too soon get to the point where they think “I’m done. I’m burnt out and tired. Tired of you pushing me. I’m tired of being expected to win all the time”. These are very real effects of pushing your teenage athlete too soon.
Another thing I would like to point out is the effects of yelling from the sideline. It’s okay to cheer your athletes on. I am guilty of that. I do quite loudly at times. However, if you are consistently yelling abuse, or you’re being negative while your athlete is playing, while the team is playing, or you’re talking down to the coach, undermining and arguing with them, it leads to embarrassment. Your athlete will feel embarrassed. That will slowly lead to a hatred for the sport or resentment toward you. You cannot sit there and yell negatively from the sideline, or undermine and argue with the coach all the time, because it’s really embarrassing for your athlete.
Let Them Lead
Let your athlete lead and decide their own journey. You are there to guide and support them, ask them what can you do to help them achieve their goals. Don’t go out and tell them how to achieve your goals. And remember, those two-way conversations we’ve been talking about recently. That’s how you will ensure they can open up to you and come to you with problems, such as injuries. Ask them how can you help them achieve their goals. You want to motivate and support them. It’s necessary to avoid the effects of pushing your athlete too soon.
Know When It’s Time To Pull Up & Recover
You don’t want to push them toward burnout and fatigue because it’s dangerous. I had a couple of illnesses at the same time that really put me down. I developed chronic fatigue syndrome because I was trying to push through it. That’s why it’s really important you are pointing out to your athlete when it’s time to pull up, rest and recover. When we go through The Competitor’s Edge Masterclass, we will be discussing my SNORES method, which is really about helping your athlete avoid burnout and fatigue, and making sure they have that perfect balance between sleep, nutrition, organisation, relaxation, education, and sport. It’s a busy schedule, and the only way to avoid burnout, injury, and fatigue, is to have a solid strategy.
Not Too Much Emphasis On Winning
These kids are only teenagers and their bodies are going through some pretty crazy times. Another suggestion I have is not to put too much emphasis on winning. The last thing you want your athlete to think is winning is everything. They will be disappointed with their losses. In order to know how to win, you have to know how to lose first. You have to know how to be a good loser to be an integral part of any team. To be an impressive part of a team. Don’t put too much emphasis on winning. They will be on the field thinking about it all the time, and it does affect performance.
Hard Work & Consistent Effort = Winning
Yes, winning is nice, but, true winning is when you’re working really hard, you stay focused, you’re dedicated, and consistently putting in maximum effort. That’s what true winning is. That’s what you need your athlete to know. They need to know they’re winning every time they go out there, as long as they are working hard. They can’t go out and have a lazy day, though you can expect it from time to time.
Oh my gosh, my boy on Saturday had the most sluggish game I’ve seen him play. His coach even asked me if he had a big breakfast. There will be times when they’re going to be a little bit off. Heck, there are days that we all experience feeling a little off. We do have to expect that from time to time. It’s very important they don’t think winning is everything so they don’t punish themselves when they are feeling sluggish.
It’s Our Responsibility
The teenage years can be trying years for them. Their hormones are going crazy. Their bodies are changing. It’s the vulnerable years for burnout and fatigue, for losing trust and developing hatred. You can expect all this if you’re pushing your teenage athlete too hard too soon. While it’s crucial we get this journey going early, that doesn’t mean we start pushing them. It’s irresponsible from parents, and from coaches, its unprofessional to put our athletes in danger’s way. That’s what we’re doing when we don’t keep check they’re not pushing themselves too hard as I did, or when we as parents and coaches are pushing them too hard for their level, their development, and their age.
Some Injuries Are Inevitable
Now let’s think about injuries. Injuries are going to occur, it’s normal to have sore muscles, muscle strain, or from time to time experience a muscle tear. I tore my hamstring muscle and went to an athletics meet one day and was supposed to only be spectating. When I saw the girls lining up for my event and I told my mom I was going to the toilet. I ran over to that race with my torn hamstring muscle. We’ve actually got a photo of it. A full bandage on my leg and “boom”, I actually won that race, but oh my Gosh, I fell over that line in agony and was out again for quite some time.
It just made my recovery time even longer. I’m not putting blame on my parents by any means. I was a sneaky little bugger. However, it is important that we try to point these things out. Teenagers are in that danger zone, and that dangerous zone has quite a few little bits and pieces we need to dodge. So, it’s imperative we are not pushing them too hard too soon. It puts extreme pressure on a teenager’s body. It will lead to injury.
Don’t Push Through An Injury
Trying to push through injury and over-exerting through an injury can actually lead to a neurological disease called Central Pain Syndrome. This disease can take hold of your teenage athletes and riddle their body to the point they can’t get out of bed. They can’t function. It’s really serious. So if your athlete has an injury or they are overexerting themselves, try pulling them aside and let them know you think they need to be resting, relaxing, and recuperating.
Stress the importance of rejuvenating and recovering at such a vulnerable age. Try to point out the effects pushing too hard can have on a teenage athlete’s career. It can put an end to an athlete’s career if it’s left undiagnosed, or if it goes over a long period of time without being assessed. If your athlete is experiencing joint pain, don’t let it go without being assessed. If your athlete is complaining of joint pain, then it needs to be assessed by a professional.
It can lead to serious injury and debilitating pain. Muscle stiffness and soreness are inevitable to occur at some point, but joint pain is another thing. If they are experiencing joint pain, please do get it assessed by a professional. The effects of pushing your teenage athlete too soon can lead to serious joint pain.
Car Ride Conversations
Another thing I want you to think about when it comes to pushing your athlete too soon is the car ride home. Now, this is a big one because not a lot of parents think about it. The car ride home is when our athletes are most vulnerable, whether they’ve had a good game or a bad game. What you want to avoid is really getting in their ear about their performance, or giving them feedback as we talked about last week. You don’t want to get on them straight after a performance.
The last thing you want your athlete to be thinking about when they’re on the field is what’s going to happen on the car ride home. Worrying about what you’re going to say. It will affect their performance. If your athlete is thinking about it on the field, they are definitely not thinking about what they are doing, or what they need to be doing in order to achieve what they want to achieve. Please think about what your conversations are in the car on the way home.
Coaches Must Be Responsible Too
It is our responsibility to keep them safe, well, and healthy. It’s also the coaches responsibility when the athletes are with them, that they keep them safe and healthy also, not put them in harm’s way by pushing them when it’s way too soon. As I said before, it’s both irresponsible and unprofessional. If we allow ourselves or the coaches to push too soon, our athletes will have serious problems when they get older, and they could be very serious lifelong problems. If a coach is pushing your teenage athlete too soon, and you think they are overusing them, you must address the situation.
Mental, Physical & Emotional Wellbeing
Pushing our athletes too soon is going to have serious detrimental effects mentally, physically, and emotionally. There is nothing healthy that comes about from trying to live vicariously through your child, trying to push them too hard toward something they don’t want to do, or by letting them push themselves too hard in something they absolutely love. Athletes want to achieve the biggest goals. We need to show them that they don’t need to go from here to there in 60 seconds. They need to take smaller, achievable steps. They are still growing mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Parent/Athlete Relationship and Communication
Not only can this have an effect on your athlete’s health and wellbeing, but it can also have an effect on the parent/athlete relationship and communication. Communication is so very important in order for us to know what’s going on with our athlete’s bodies, where they are at, and how they are feeling.
Don’t Play The Same Sport Year-Round
Professionals actually recommend teenage athletes don’t play all year round. That’s not to say they can’t play a sport year-round, but not to play the same sport year-round. They recommend teenage athletes have four months off per year from each sport. And I read a really great point the other day that suggested If your athlete is offered a contract by a coach that states they cannot play another sport, they should probably go find another coach because it’s irresponsible. No teenage athlete in the danger years should be playing year-round repetitive sport. That’s when overuse injuries occur that can debilitate an athlete.
Today I have discussed what can happen if we are pushing our athletes too hard too soon and we still have heaps of juicy information, tips and resources coming all week over in College Bound Athletes, my private Facebook community. Come on over to say hey and continue this discussion.
Don’t forget, only seven days to go until we kick off The Competitor’s EdgeMasterclass. We’ve got more value, more bonuses, more giveaways, and awesome surprises coming your way, Monday through Friday. Then we’re going to have bonus sessions Friday through Tuesday. So we’re going to have a week jam-packed of great fun, lots of value, and you will be ready to hit the ground running by the final day. Remember, you can be in the draw to win the registrant’s bonus if you register through the registration page. You can register right here. The registrant’s bonus prize is a cracker. Once you register, you will receive the workbook via email. There’s lots to come in this masterclass, it’s going to be so much fun. I hope I see you there.
Now you know, you can show your athlete the detrimental effects that can happen to them if they are pushing themselves too hard too soon. I am offering my 15-minute connect calls for those who would like to connect with me in person. It’s a chance to ask me any questions you may have about the Masterclass, PEAinternational, or how to help your athlete avoid burnout and fatigue. If you would like to book a call you can find my calendar here where you can book a time that suits you best. For an extra avenue to find great tips and strategies to help you guide your athlete on this journey, you can also check out my podcast here. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review to help us grow. I hope you have a very wonderful week. Take care. Yours in sport, Brooke Hamilton.