Coaching Youth: Fueling an Athlete’s Lifestyle
By Alan Ley
Photo by Erik Schelkun
USA Triathlon’s mission is to grow and inspire the triathlon community, and the tagline “Fueling the Multisport Lifestyle” has been used by the organization for a while now. I propose that for youth triathletes, coaches and parents use the slogan, “Fueling the Athlete’s Lifestyle.” The fuel athletes need the most is fuel for the mind.
Young athletes, like adults, are exposed to all kinds of daily emotions and stress, and it is important for the coach and parent to understand this. Coaches and parents must be perceptive to what’s going on in an athlete’s head and what is affecting the way the athlete feels and performs. Coaches and parents form a support system, and these supporters’ passion, preparation and commitment are high octane fuel for the young athletes as they prepare for sport and life.
Key Youth Coaching Concepts
How you coach/teach is the key to an athlete’s success, even more valid than what you coach/teach.
Mental preparation and training is more critical than physical training.
Always instill passion, desire and enthusiasm in the hearts, minds and souls of your athletes. Young athletes will be heavily influenced on what you model.
Attitude, effort and focus should be three key components of every practice.
Neuromuscular training comes first. Use visuals, explanation and demonstration, then practice and provide feedback immediately.
Practice never makes perfect — only perfect practice makes perfect.
With youth and juniors, the will to prepare trumps talent every time.
The younger your athletes, the more professional you must be. Lead by example.
Learn from watching — looking, listening and asking them questions.
The coach and parent empowers and can instill a winning vision in each athlete.
When you prescribe the next two weeks of swimming, cycling and running sessions and you are trying to determine heart rates, intervals, rest and the progression of workloads, be sure to implement the 10 coaching concepts above into your sessions. All athletes look for validation, but it is even more important for the young triathlete in training. Mental fuel is essential to the athlete whether they are in the multisport lifestyle for play or performance.
Alan Ley coaches the WickedFast Triathlon Team in the Rocky Mountain Region.