How to Help Young Athletes Be Organised For A Competition (Without Going Over the Top)
A little bit of thought and preparation can turn a long day at the track into a much better experience for a young athlete.
Young athletes compete best when they are relaxed and happy. Because of this, I often caution parents and coaches about going “over the top” and making a “big deal” about an upcoming sports event. It can make kids anxious. It’s good to keep things low-key and be relaxed; but it is not good to be disorganized and feel under-prepared.
For example, if an athlete ends up leaving something important at home, doesn’t have enough food or is under-prepared for the prevailing weather conditions, their day can be ruined.
Therefore, I suggest that some basic practices be put into place to reduce the likelihood of such things occurring. An organised athlete is less likely to face stressors on the day.
It’s good to be relaxed but it’s not good to be disorganised and under-prepared.
Include the athlete
Firstly, I am a big believer in empowering young athletes – in letting them “own” their sporting experience. I am also a believer in incrementally teaching them be self-reliant. In other words, gradually teach them to do more and more things themselves. Include kids as much as possible in getting themselves organised, with the aim of ultimately turning the whole process over to them, with your support as required.
Below are six simple competition preparation tips that will help young athletes get organised and make the most of their day at the track. Help them build them into their regular pre-competition routine.
Encourage the athlete to pack all of their gear the night before, using a packing list that they have created with your assistance.
Look at the following day’s program with the athlete. Together work out a rough plan of what they will eat when, using foods brought from home. Do not rely on ground catering. The athlete should take a variety of healthy foods, including liquid meals such as an “Up & Go”. Also, the athlete should take more food and drink than they think that they will need – just in case.
3. Warm Up and Cool Down
Discuss with the athlete when and how they will warm up and cool down. Have a flexible plan in place.
4. Time Between Events
Ask the athlete to consider how they will keep themselves occupied between events and if they will need to take anything with them to do so. E.g. A book, iPad, etc. Add it to the packing list.
5. Weather Forecast
Check and discuss the weather forecast. What might the athlete need to prepare for a very hot, cold or wet day?
6. Competition Day
For competition day, encourage the athlete to get up early enough to allow them to have a light and relaxed breakfast (Being “too nervous to eat” is not an excuse!), and avoid rushing to get ready. Help them work out what morning routine works best for them.
Empower athletes to organise themselves without getting too serious or demanding about the process.
Can you add anything to the above list?
What works for you? Do you have any other tips? Do you involve your athlete in the organisation process? How? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email.