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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Working with High Performance Minor Athletes - Part 2

Please check out part one of Working with High Performance Minor Athletes

It does not matter if the athletes are male or females, hormones are going to effect your interactions with them each and every day.  They effect their moods, their body, how they recover from injuries both physically and emotionally, how they react to their teammates, training partners and coaches.  I will break the myth right now, it is not only girls who cry and not only boys who want to hit things.  If you are dealing with young elementary aged children, they are still learning how to deal with disappointment, loss and success.  As the athletes grow older they are starting to discover who they are, and are having more expectations put on them.  Their role in sport can start to define them, if this role is suddenly changed, they may find it hard to cope.  You typically become their ally or enemy. If this role change occurs due to an injury, they see you as an enemy because you are what is holding them back.  If it is a coaching choice that changes their role you become the ally, they see you as someone to turn to who understands what is going on.  Typically at this age their relationships with their parents are changing and they may not feel they can go to them, you become their constant who they can trust.  It is this trust that will help you get through the enemy stage.  If you have built the trust when the time comes for you to remove them from play you remain their ally.  When removing an athlete from activity be prepared for anything.  As I said earlier girls hit and boys cry, you are messing with their identity in their minds, and they each have their own way of showing it.

At times you feel like a glorified babysitter.  You are the first one there, the last to leave, you pick up after the athletes, find out who's parents are always late, and do the room checks because the coaches are having strategy sessions.  Due to all this you become the gate keeper, you learn which athletes like to toe the line, which ones like to step over the edge a little and the ones who will ask you later "what line?"  Many coaches like to think they have their finger on the pulse of their athletes, but truly it is the Athletic Therapist.  We see all, here all and usually end up cleaning up the mess.  With minor aged athletes you try to help them keep the messes to a minimum, you become the teacher again in guiding them as to right and wrong.  You would be amazed at what these young minds can come up with to do on road trips.

For everyone involved in minor sports at a high level, we all must remember that these athletes are still kids.  Even as an Athletic Therapist it is hard.  We are trying to give them the structure and guidance they need to succeed.  Nutrition plans, treatment schedules, and expectations of how to act in the clinic or treatment room.  Let the kids be kids.  They will try to eat poutine before a game, use your athletic tape for their sticks and you will go through about ten sets of nail clippers each season.  It all becomes worth it though when they do something to show they have been listening, or when the truly show they care by carrying the treatment table and medical kit.  No matter the age of your athletes it is important to treat them all with respect and have their long term health and wellness in mind, because at times you will be the only one worrying about that.

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