The middle Kelly boy has always been a youth athlete and had an appetite for competitive sport. Spurred on by keeping up with a sporty and talented older brother, his tenacity during rugby and football is a joy to watch. Two weekends ago he was playing up front for Ascot United in a really tight fixture. Both teams deadlocked going into the third quarter, but Ascot probably edging the contest but it isn’t obvious where the goal is coming from. H breaks through the defence and just as he’s about to shoot, a team mate takes the ball from his foot and booms it into the bottom of the netting. Ascot break the dead lock and H is fuming! That was his shot to take! He loses his head, starts shouting at team mates, stops working and within 5 minutes has taken himself off, not to return to the game.
This massive loss of control had been brewing for some time. I can’t remember the last time I watch H play without him losing his cool about the referee, a team mate, or foul play. Classic external attributions – some justified but all of them taking his focus away from the only thing he control – himself.
Implications of losing control as a youth athlete
There are several important consequences and implications when young players lose their cool during competition. Firstly, it doesn’t do their mental health any good – there is no scenario where feeling up tight and angry is going to improve self worth and enjoyment through sport.
If it happens on a frequent basis then there may be social implications too – the impact upon team mates from both a performance social perspective. Losing control often leaves the young athlete over aroused, with their head ‘not in the game’. Their performance suffers and they therefore risk letting their team mates down.
It can also be very embarrassing once the situation has passed. The youth athlete has to face everyone at training the next week, and there will be some healing to be done in order to get everyone functioning again.
Turning negative into positive
My initial reaction was a mixture of disappointment, anger and embarrassment. None of the other parents came to speak about it – they’d seen H like this before. I stayed for the remainder of the game to show support for the team, not his actions. On the way home I was very blunt in telling H what the implications were – this was a harsh lesson to learn.
However, it was also very valuable. After a good cry, H was ready to discuss it in detail. We talked through arousal and how it relates to performance. We used the incident to discuss the strength of placing the team first and making your best contribution. All in all the incident could have been very negative – but it turned out one of the most positive lessons he could have experienced. Since that day H’s focus is to remain level headed, and to focus only on the things that he can control – namely his reactions. He has played and enjoyed his best performance in the last two weeks – it isn’t a coincidence.
NK Fitness specialise in working with the youth athlete. If you’d like to know more about our programmes and how we can support your youth athlete please take a look at our youth conditioning page and feel free to get in touch