Posted by Ken Krause
One of the most important characteristics that drives (or at least should drive) youth athletes is the desire to be better this week than they were last week.
That doesn’t mean leaps and bounds better, like suddenly jumping 5 mph in pitching or hitting the ball 50 feet farther as a hitter. But, as Bobby Simpson says, getting a little better every day.
So it can be pretty distressing when, say, a pitcher goes to a lesson or practice and her highest pitch speed that day is a couple miles an hour off of her personal record. The pitcher may get discouraged and question her self-worth, and her parents may panic thinking something is horribly wrong. And, of course, her coach will be doing everything he/she can think of to try to get the numbers back up.
Sometimes, however, the issue isn’t a mechanical flaw or a lack of effort. Sometimes that’s just all that player has to give that day.
This is especially true for multi-sport athletes. A fastpitch softball player who is also in-season for a high-impact, energy-draining sport such as basketball, volleyball, ice hockey, field hockey, swimming, tennis, etc. may find it difficult to maintain her highest level of performance when she leaves her other sport’s game or practice and goes to her softball event.
Think of it like a glass of water. The player starts out with a full glass.
During the other sport’s game or workout, the glass begins to empty. Depending on the intensity she may drain it completely.
When it’s over, she moves on to softball. Along the way the glass starts to fill again, but it may not quite make it back to the top before she has to go out and perform again. So she’s starting with a less-than-full glass.
In some cases, it may not have even filled halfway again. So to expect her to perform at her highest level will be unrealistic because the energy is simply unavailable.
And that’s just the physical side. There is also the mental component.
It can be tough to switch gears, especially after a game where there is competition and pressure. She comes down from that, then has to crank it back up for softball? It may not happen.
Of course, this isn’t just limited to mental drains due to sports. Other factors can be involved as well.
Students struggling with a course load, or a particularly difficult class, or facing a tough test or finals may find they can’t work up the fine level of focus required to do your best. Musicians preparing for a concert, recital or competition, actors looking at the premiere of a play, debate team members in deep preparation and so on all have distractions that could prevent them from performing at their best.
Finally, there are friend and family dramas and social media issues to consider. While they may seem small to you, to an adolescent or pre-teen the issues may seem overwhelming – or at least challenging enough to get in the way of top-level performance.
Now take two or three of those issues and combine them and it’s easy to see that while the player may be willing she just doesn’t have enough in the tank to perform her best.
With pretty much all sports and activities (not to mention life in general) being year-round, there are no easy solutions. Just saying “suck it up and rub some dirt on it” doesn’t do anything but add to the frustration (and anger).
Best we can do is understand that, just like at work, kids are going to have good days and bad days. Some days they’ll be all charged up no matter what is going on in their lives. And some days, well, they’re just going to have to give the best they have and call it a day.
The measurables may not be there, but it doesn’t mean they’re not getting value. If anything, they’re learning how to perform in the last Sunday game of a long tournament played in 95 degree heat and high humidity.
So if your daughter doesn’t seem to be performing at her highest level don’t be too quick to hit the panic button. Take a look at what else is going on her life.
It could just be a temporary bump in the road that will solve itself when she’s not so pressed with everything else.
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