June 2020 - 24

they've matured. While development differs for
every athlete, most don't peak in middle school!
Coaches and parents can help athletes to develop
realistic expectations and understand where they are
developmentally and what the timeline may be like
before they reach their maximum athletic potential.
Help early bloomers develop their technical skill set
so they do not rely too much on being bigger, stronger,
and faster first. Chances are, their peers may catch up.
Reassure the late bloomers by encouraging them to do
age-appropriate strength and conditioning with their
sports skills. The late bloomers often surpass the early
bloomers in the long run - as long as they don't get cut or
quit first. In addition, support the awkward adolescents
by helping them grow into their changing bodies.
Help awkward athletes to relearn agility, balance, and
coordination. Teaching all athletes how to use their
bodies more effectively and develop a well-rounded skill
set promotes long-term athletic success across sports.
6
. Identify Talent and Potential
.Experts agree that talent identification is a difficult
and imperfect process. Most coaches can easily pick out
the athletes who are bigger, stronger, and faster.
a more experienced eye to identify potential. Coaches
should learn to identify talent and potential. Try to
identify the athletes who are not the most physically
developed yet, but are building other good habits over
It takes
time. Look for intangibles like grit and hustle.
Youth sports evaluations and even high school tryouts
are a constant challenge. When appropriate, consider
pool play situations or mobility between varsity and
junior varsity rosters (or A and B teams). Allow youth
athletes opportunities to be promoted to an A roster
spot over time or build confidence temporarily on a
B team. A fluid situation can be very effective with
proper communication and consideration between
coaches, parents, and athletes. With a mindful, flexible
approach, athletes aren't cut or discouraged, or quit
before they've really gotten a chance to develop. The end
goal is to have every athlete compete at a level where he
or she is optimally challenged.
Promoting long-term athletic development in every
sport will benefit athletes in their primary sport. The
key to long-term athletic success is to help athletes
Build Good Habits Over Time.
Dr. Lynn Pantuosco-Hensch is an Associate Professor
at Westfield State University in the Movement Science
Department. She is also a licensed soccer coach with the
United Soccer Coaches. Her current research is on LTAD
and youth sport specialization.
She thanks Paula Leahy Welch for her editorial support.
Reach her at: lhensch@westfield.ma.edu or https://
www.lynnpantuosco-hensch.com
24 JUNE 2020
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