Importance of Youth Sports
As a former athlete and current coach, I have spent almost my entire life around sports and athletes. As I’ve fluttered between working in private gyms, working with high school teams, and now working in a college setting, I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with people from all different walks of life. One thing I have noticed, though, is that I’ll always prefer to work with athletes, current or retired, more than those who have never played a sport. There are several reasons why, too.
1- More Coachable / Teachable
Through the years, there are certain qualities I’ve seen in people that tend to be more prevalent with athletes. First and foremost, they’re more often coachable. Athletes are used to having coaches be tough on them, and they handle constructive criticism well. People who are coachable, more often than not, become people who are easily employable.
2 – Roll with the Punches
Secondly, athletes and former athletes tend to handle adversity much better than those who haven’t played a sport before. Let’s face it. Sports are tough. Things aren’t always going to go how you game plan. Bad bounces, bad calls, lucky shots, etc. are all a part of sports, but they’re also a part of life. How are you going to react in the real world when things don’t go your way? Are you going to pout, throw a tantrum, and just quit? Sports, especially when we’re young, teach us how to handle ourselves when things don’t go well for us.
I can’t tell you how many times in my personal life that things have not gone even close to how I had them planned. Things change and events happen even quicker than the blink of an eye. Being able to think quickly, adjust, and react are all skills that I’ve developed being an athlete. Admittedly, I could argue this exact skill set is what has made me the most successful throughout my life. How many times in sports do you run a play, and it all goes to hell? Teammates out of position, the coach didn’t get the play in quick enough, or whatever situation happens every second of every sport. Playing sports is basically operating in controlled chaos, similar to how it is to work in day to day life no matter what business you end up in.
3 – Become a great teammate / Leader
Lastly, there is one quality that sticks out in my head that I developed through sports and hold to a higher degree than maybe any other quality. That specific quality is being a great teammate. I didn’t come from a family that was among the “popular” or “jock” families when I started playing sports. Socially, this put me way behind the curve as far as making friends or being a good teammate. In football, for me specifically, was where I learned how to do it. I learned that every guy on the team has a job, and if one person messes up, the whole team will suffer for it.
I learned what it was like to have bad leaders on a team. My sophomore year of high school, we went 1-9 and lost our first 9 games. The seniors at the time didn’t talk to the juniors, the junior didn’t talk to the sophomores, and we were more of a collection of guys than a team. That showed in our record. By the time I became a senior, we finished 1 game from the playoffs 2 straight years. We made it a point to build relationships with everyone on the team, regardless of age, position, skill, experience, or background. We knew we needed everyone if we wanted to succeed.
Now as a performance coach, it is even more clear to me how important it is to build relationships. We aren’t in the business of fitness, but rather the business of people. It’s easy to see what athletes are willing to do for coaches that actually make an effort and are there for them. The relationships we build as coaches are carried throughout the lifetime. Since taking over as a collegiate coach, I’ve had almost every athlete I’ve trained tell me I’m the best strength coach they’ve had since they’ve been at this school. Is that because I’m just that good at my job? Absolutely not. It’s because I’ve taken time to learn everyone’s name, what they like to do, and build a relationship with them. Now, if I say I want them to try to lift a weight they never had, they trust that I’m not going to let them down.
I’m in this coaching business because of a relationship that a coach built with me. My varsity wrestling coach sat down with me when I wasn’t planning on continuing to wrestle. He knew what my skill set was, what my desires were, and he had told me that he wished I would get into coaching some day. I was only 16 when he told me that. Before that moment, I had never thought about anything as a career outside of medical research or engineering. I can now thank him for the career I have.
As strength or performance coaches, the fitness results of what we do are a nice side effect. However, the meat of what we do is taking care of the people or athletes we work with. Also as a performance coach, I don’t think the benefit of people playing sports (especially in their younger years) can ever be understated. Too many lessons, qualities, and traits are developed that can be carried on throughout a person’s entire life span. One thing I know for sure, if I’m ever an employer looking to hire, I’ll take someone with a background in sports 10 times out 10. I know for a fact they’ll be able to handle adversity, think on their toes, communicate through stressful situations, and above all be a great teammate.