Do A Lot Of People Go To Junior Varsity Football Specializing at a Young Age Will Stunt Your Growth, Not Improve It

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Specializing at a Young Age Will Stunt Your Growth, Not Improve It

According to USA Hockey, colleges and universities across the country are recruiting talented and skilled ice hockey players before they start high school. Verbal commitments are being made to prospects and perennial powerhouses like the University of Wisconsin. Talented players who don’t want to take the college route are opting for the major junior system in Canada and then turning pro at the young age of 18 or 19. The number of young players in the National Hockey League is growing. A handful of them have gone on to captain their professional teams, such as Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby. The emergence of young players taking on leading roles in the elite circles of Division 1 and professional sports shows young players that specializing is the way to go. Ice hockey isn’t the only sport that recognizes talent at an unusually young age. Major football universities are looking for players just starting high school. Much can be said about an athlete’s physical and mental development in high school and college. Schools like Yale University won’t consider recruiting youth for their varsity sports because they realize how much can change psychologically for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. For them, academic integrity is as important as athletic performance. So it doesn’t suit them to guarantee four years early. They want to see where those candidates land down the road before making any commitments. What happened to waiting around and buying the best? We don’t pick a president 4 years before he’s sworn in, why pick what jersey the players will wear before he gets there? If you keep it close to the actual time it takes to play the competition, the way to get there will be more about process and development.

Ten years ago, it was believed that athletes needed more time to develop and gain a competitive edge. In ice hockey, post graduate programs (PG years) at prep schools and junior teams were common to be noticed by competitive college hockey programs. It was felt that to gain an edge, you need time to develop physically and mentally as well as experience playing with other like-minded players. When you knew you had a long road ahead of you to get to college and a professional position, specializing in your sport at 12 wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Parents, coaches and experts feared that too much pressure to perform and excel at a young age would burn out players prematurely.

Performance development coaches like myself believe that athletes should focus primarily on two sports, but their programs should include the skills and abilities needed to perform well in 10 other sports or activities. Even if you don’t play baseball, an ice hockey player with the ability to step into the batting cage and hit a high percentage of pitches. Hockey players who can play baseball well will respond better on the ice and be better able to react to the puck when flying a high shot or fielding a bad pass. Likewise, playing soccer is very developmental for a budding ice hockey player because many skilled players are very good at carrying and handling the puck with their feet. Whether your main sport is baseball or ice hockey, you can learn a lot by playing other sports like tennis, soccer, football, etc.

There is a wide spectrum of what parents want their children to do. Some want their kids to be like Sidney Crosby and force them to be experts at 8 years old, and others just want their kids to have fun and do whatever they want. Both approaches are bad. Specialization or isolation is bad. The key is to keep intensity, focus, motivation and vigor high while keeping expectations and pressure low. Young athletes should be taught discipline, passion, training and love and heart for the game. The road to intercollegiate and professional sports is long. The people who make it and stay there love the glitzy aspect, the long road trips, the sweat, the low pay (most professional athletes pay nothing like ARod’s), the unforgiving schedule, and the inherent uncertainty. Coming from a very fluid business – where one day the best team wants you and the next day the worst team looks at you is the farm club.

Whatever you do, success comes from love. The day it works is the day you know it might be time to think about a new path. Players who play for glory will be in store for a rude awakening. Athletes who can overcome adversity and overcome it through hard work and focus are the ones you know truly love what they do. The turnaround for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team shows great determination, willpower and a passion to improve and improve themselves. They didn’t worry about playing against perennial powerhouse teams like the Boston Red Sox. They played the game the way they knew best and defined their run in the World Series their way and on their terms. The way professional major league baseball went from worst team to World Series runner-up is an example of how individual players approach their development. You can’t go out there and just be in it for the win. Unfortunately, raw desire isn’t enough to get you there. You must be willing and able to put in incredible and invaluable hard work. By doing this, you put yourself in a better position to start doing better.

As a sports development coach, I’m useless to someone who just wants to play in a recreational league and score when they want to. When someone is ready to work hard, put in a lot of time and sweat – I am the right person for them. I will help them to get to where they want to be. There is no glamor in what I do, other than the satisfaction I have, knowing that I played a role in helping an athlete show their potential in front of an audience. I do what I do because I have love and passion for the sport.

The key to professional happiness is mastering the commitment to hard work. Whatever you do to move forward will come later. Don’t worry about what approvals you’re getting at 14 to play college sports. Keep your head down and focus on getting better. A lot can happen in high school. If you keep your options open at 14, you’ll have plenty to fall back on when you’re 18.

If you’re good at football at 14 and it doesn’t work for you, there’s nothing else for you to fall back on. If you play a lot of sports and do well in some of them, if one doesn’t get the pay or fame, the other probably will. The more options you have, the less pressure you feel to excel at one, making it more enjoyable. No one wants to think that everything depends on how you do in one thing.

Keep your options open and have fun, but remember you won’t improve without hard work. So decide what your priorities are and then go from there. If you don’t want to sweat or do the necessary things to improve your game, don’t expect to play at the next level. There is nothing wrong with playing pick-up games. You have to be honest with yourself about your skill level and willingness to spend the time to do it. Sidney Crosby, Eli Manning, Tom, Brady, Michael Jordan and company like them didn’t get where they were by just coasting through life. They assessed their capabilities and accordingly set their minds on where they wanted to go. Once they did, they worked tirelessly to make sure they got there. Due to that due diligence, he excelled in all professional fields.

The main thing to take away from this article is that you need more determination than skill. And above all, you need love more than determination. So, we need love more than skill. If you don’t enjoy what you do, it doesn’t matter how much skill you have because you don’t want to do it anymore. Focusing is different from specializing. Play lots of games. Be active in different things. Do it because you love it. You can then decide which will allow you to do it in college or professionally. You will benefit more from playing and training for other sports than you would spend training for one sport. My program is so effective because despite your focus, I expose you to common movements and drills in other activities, making you a more complete and well-rounded athlete.

Stay tuned for more articles from DSWAthletes owned and managed by Derrick Wong. We write about all sports. We want to help you get where you want to go and enjoy both the process and the results. We’ll help you focus and stay in great shape.

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