Youth Development in Sports

By Lee Taft

Our talks about Youth Development, in my opinion, need to be more focused on the mental side versus the physical side. Let me explain…

The volume of exercise/play that kids can do, or should I say are “capable of doing”, is very high. They play hard, rest quickly and play some more. This can go on all day long. Of course, we want to be concerned with proper skill development and technique, but the real concern to me is the emotional side.

Just Let Kids Play
If you let kids just play, then they will do so all day long. When you start putting pressure on them to get in the car, drive to a private lesson, a training session, a tournament, etc., then it becomes an emotional overload. Not to mention the parents and coaches barking instructions and putting each and every movement under a microscope and scrutinizing the kid. It simply becomes too much and this is why many kids under perform, become frustrated and eventually quit.

This is exactly why I say emotional volume is the issue more than the physical volume. Most kids are fine with the physical volume by itself, but tagged with emotional volume it becomes too much.

Parent’s Words can be Harmful
I have said it before, I am not opposed to kids playing in travel sports at all. My kids are involved. But my wife and I make it about the kids, not us. I don’t say a word while they are playing. I am not one of those parents who constantly yell out instructions and negativeness to my child while they are playing. Which by the way is WAY MORE HARMFUL THAN PARENTS MIGHT THINK! I am at the game 100% as a fan and just love seeing them play. Most of the time they will ask me after games how I thought they did. At this time, I will then give my thoughts.

When I see young kids constantly looking over at their parents in the crowed, I then know they are self-conscious of what their parents are thinking and worried if their parents approve. This behavior spawns from constant critiquing and overbearing criticism.

This is why the emotional side of youth development is where we need to keep watch.

Lee Taft, known to most simple as “The Speed Guy”, is highly respected as one of the top athletic movement specialist in the world. Since 1989, Lee has taught foundation movement to beginning youngsters and helped young amateur athletes to professional athletes become quicker, faster and stronger.Lee has been asked to speak at numerous strength and conditioning and sports performance events across the world and has produced 13 instructional videos in the area of multi-directional speed and movement training. In addition, Lee has written several eBooks specifically on movement techniques and speed development. He can be reached at

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