It’s exciting to see your child excel at a sport, but it’s even better when they love everything about playing. Competitive athletics can offset academic rigors, provide an emotional outlet, and encourage necessary physical activity for fitness.
Children and young adults can gain a lot from athletics. As a parent, it’s easy to wonder how to set your young athlete up for academic and career success. There are many steps you can take to keep your young athlete on track and set them up for a well rounded experience.
Discuss Your Child’s Goals
Before you get too excited about your child’s future in professional sports, you might want to ask them what they want. Engaging your child in making future goals keeps them focused on the process and typically results in better outcomes. Make sure your child knows that their goals can change as they grow.
Even middle schoolers have an idea of how far they want to take their sport and how much it means to them. If they express a desire to participate in collegiate athletics, the time to start planning is now.
Research Requirements for Achievement
Have your child research what college coaches look for in prospective student-athletes. Your child might be surprised to learn that colleges expect them to maintain their grades and take challenging classes throughout high school. It’s a good idea to attend athletic camps at colleges where you and your child can learn about what’s expected of them if they hope to compete at that level.
Set Achievable Milestones
Once your child knows what they need to accomplish to reach their goals, it helps to break the ultimate goal into smaller, more manageable milestones. Don’t forget to set academic and personal goals along with the athletic ones. Remember, coaches expect well-rounded athletes who can make it through the admissions process.
Address the Importance of Motivation
Motivation is one of the most important things to discuss with your young athlete. No amount of talent or athletic ability can make up for intense motivation. Average athletes can become all-stars when they work harder than anyone else.
What Motivates Your Young Athlete?
Speak with your child about what motivates them to perform. Even the most motivated athlete struggles to make a lifting session at six in the morning sometimes. Ask them what tricks they can use to overcome those challenges when they arise. Also remind them that it's impossible to not have some setbacks or to perform at their absolute best everyday. Progress not perfection is a good rule of thumb.
How Much Do They Want Your Help?
As parents, it’s easy to fly in to rescue your child when they falter. That’s not the best option for raising a resilient child or a competitive athlete. Instead, talk with your child about how you can support their efforts. Let them tell you when they want you to step in to give them a nudge or provide moral support.
Offer Unconditional Support
Always commend your child’s successes. Whether they earn an A in a tough course or shave two seconds of their mile time, any progress is notable. You might be the only person to know how hard your child worked to achieve those small victories.
Failures and losses are part of life, and your child needs to feel those things as they come. However, it’s also important to point out small victories when they arise and shine a light on them to boost confidence and remind your child of their long-term goals.
Roll With the Changes
Your sixth grader might start out with dreams of competing at one of the Ivy schools. While that’s exciting, it might not be the most practical or desirable option by the time they reach tenth or eleventh grade. Some students find that they can pursue their academic and athletic interests better at other schools. Prepare for things to change slightly throughout their college exploration process.
Find the Right Educational Fit
For many young athletes, finding the right school can have a massive impact on their long-term success. Having access to the right academic and athletic opportunities sets them up for college athletics and creates a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. It is also important for the school to have other areas they are interested in besides the team. An injury or change of heart can still happen at the college level and its important your child still feels like they can grow and accomplish other pursuits at that institution.
As a parent who wants to learn how to set your young athlete up for academic and career success, you need to find opportunities that allow your child to blossom academically, socially, and athletically. Some schools focus on one aspect over the other instead of finding a balance between athletics and academics, making your job as a parent that much harder.
At The Harvey School, we offer a robust athletic program with year-round competitive sports for students to participate in. Additionally, many of our teachers are coaches, meaning your student can build relationships that will last through their school years and beyond.