Matt Cucarro offered some very helpful insights and advice this week in his post on Professional Sports Psychology Symposium. It’s a great read for parents, players and coaches of young athletes. Cucarro points out how easy it is to let results become a distraction for developing athletes and actually undermine success by taking our focus away from the task at hand.
It’s a simple formula: Skills + Time = Results. As he points out, “As skills are passionately pursued throughout a significant time frame, expert performance appears.” Focusing more on wins and losses or other short term results undermines a development mindset and long term success.
Cucarro uses several helpful examples from his work with junior golfers:
Players don’t practice making birdies, they practice making smooth swings.
Golfers don’t practice shooting 4 under par, they practice staying target focused.
Golfers don’t practice getting recruited by a college or turning pro, they practice patience.
A recent study of 13 – 16 year old soccer players in Sweden found that young players not only understand this approach but value it. When asked to rate their training environments, the players identified High Quality, Low Quality and Moderate Quality environments. It was only in those environments that players identified as High Quality that they worked with their coaches to set performance goals that were monitored over time with a focus on the long term. Not only does it get better results. The study found that having a long term vision in their mind was essential for player well-being. And that well-being has a direct correlation in studies with other important stuff like longer participation and higher levels of performance.
Competition has a place in a young athlete’s development. It is, as Cucarro points out, ” an opportunity to exhibit skills and test personal limits.” But, as an old mentor of mine used to say, ” just because something needs to be there doesn’t mean it is the biggest thing. It just means it needs to be there.” Along with Skills + Time = Results maybe another simple formula can help as we put our programs together : Skill Development > Competition.
Taking the long view is challenging. It’s also where the good stuff is. Cuccaro sums it up with a helpful reminder, ” When skills continue to remain a top priority throughout training AND competition consistent results unfold.” Take a minute to read the post. It’s good stuff for parents, coaches and everyone concerned with young people thrive and flourish through sports.