7 Ways to Prevent Common Youth Sports Injuries

There is no doubt that kids and teens today are playing sports harder and with more intensity than ever before. What used to be a baseball game in the empty lot behind the grocery store played on weekends is now a structured, statewide or even nation-wide competition played year-round.

The more time our kids spend on the playing field, the better the chance that, sooner or later, a sports-related injury is bound to happen. Regardless of how physically fit or active your child is, injuries happen, even to the highest paid and best-trained athletes in the world.

Common injuries include sprains and strains, spondylolysis, tendonitis, ACL tears in the knee and Osgood-Schlatter, which is a knee problem that occurs to those who are very active and are going through puberty, just to name a few.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so as the founder of Better Health Chiropractic in Wasilla, I created a list of ways you can prevent common sports injuries before your child ends up at the hospital or in my clinic.

7 Super Prevention Methods

  1. Get an Annual Checkup

This is always a highly recommended step to determine if your child is in good enough physical shape to play for another season, as well as for spotting any possible problems before kids return to active games. You should not only see your pediatrician for a checkup but visit your local chiropractor as well. Studies show that a pre-participation physical exam reduces musculoskeletal injuries.

  1. Talk with Your Young Super Star

I feel that it is a good idea for children who are active in sports to know that it’s OK if they stop playing, even mid-game if they feel pain and tell you about it when they get home. Some children (not to mention some coaches) believe that they need to push through the pain and keep playing, but this often leads to a more serious injury. Be certain that your child knows that pain is the body’s way of telling them that something is wrong and that it’s OK to stop playing.

  1. Let Them Rest!

Unfortunately, I see many parents allowing (or pushing) their children to play more than one sports game or on more than one team at a time, which leaves them precious little time for school, school work, play time, and rest. A lack of sleep leads to poor performance and, typically, injuries from overuse. Every athlete needs rest to allow the body to repair itself.  Insist that your child gets a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night. It’s even better if you can also manage another 2 hours a day for, as the kids call it, chillaxin, which means time off from sports that doesn’t include sleep, such as video games or watching movies.

  1. Use Proper Equipment

Talk to your child’s coach about what type of safety equipment your child will need well before the season starts so you have adequate time to buy sizes that fit your child. In small towns, stores sometimes sell out of things like helmets, elbow or knee pads, or have limited sizes available. Knowing in advance what you will need can help you avoid forcing your child to wear a medium for a few weeks until the size small is back in stock.

  1. Emphasize Hydration and Warm-Up

When it’s hot and/or humid out, many children end up dehydrated at best or at risk of suffering from heat stroke at worst. Be sure your child has (and understands the importance of) drinking water before, during, and after the game. If you are present, always be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke, such as fainting, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Although most coaches put their team through warm-up routines if the coach is late (or lazy) this important injury preventing step might get passed over. Stress the importance of warming up before the game. If you can, perhaps practice a few simple warm-up exercises with your child at home so they will know what to do if the coach is late. Toe touches, hamstring stretches, and jumping jacks are all good examples of stretching and warmup exercises that kids of all ages can do.

  1. Stress Proper Technique(s)

I see cases of sports-related injuries every year due to a simple lack of following proper technique. Football players should understand how to tackle and avoid a concussion. Baseball players should know how to throw the ball to avoid elbow injuries, and soccer players should know how tightly they can lace their shoes to avoid Sever’s Disease.

  1. Recognizing Injuries

Whether kids aren’t speaking up because they don’t want to be taken out of the game or if it’s mom and dad who aren’t seeking help for injuries right away, too many children sustain serious injuries because the symptoms were dismissed as being minor and the child continued to play their chosen game.

Parents- your children may not want to let the team down or they might even be too young to understand that what they are feeling is not normal. Look for signs of possible injuries, such as limping, favoring one arm, or rubbing their knee while they are waiting to be called.

When an Injury Does Occur

Obvious serious injuries, such as broken legs or fingers, should have you rushing to the emergency room for treatment.

Otherwise, you should visit your local chiropractor for natural healing that involves no drugs, no invasive surgeries, and is holistic in nature. Chiropractors treat the entire body, not just the symptoms.

In fact, 31% of NFL teams employ a chiropractor full time and 77% of all teams have referred their players to a chiropractor. You will find chiropractic care is safe and effective for everyone and that your child will feel so much better after a few sessions that they will be asking when their next appointment is to see the doctor!

Practice the above prevention methods and keeping an eye out for injuries so they can be treated quickly will keep your child happy and in the game for many years to come.

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, a different type of chiropractic clinic which treats patients the way Dr. Wells would want his family to be treated. Born and raised in Southern California, Dr. Wells received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada and his Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine degree from Western States Chiropractic College. He, his wife Coni, and their three children live in and enjoy the great outdoors in Alaska. Dr. Wells volunteers for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation and can be found hiking or rollerblading when he isn’t playing his guitar.

A new nickname sports parents should give their kids

This article was originally published here.

Professional athletes seem to reach a sort of pinnacle in their careers when they receive a nickname. Sometimes these monikers are simple — A-Rod, Air Jordan, A.I. Other times, they actually transcend their greatness, such as “Sweetness” (Walter Payton) or Mr. October (Reggie Jackson).

So, when you hear the name Joey Erace, perhaps it’s odd that he’s fashionably known as “Joey Baseball.” He looks like a great ball player and has more than 50,000 followers on social media. The only issue is he’s class of 2025 — 11 years old.

Think about it: A pre-pubescent boy, who is 70 pounds, has a nickname that encapsulates his entire self-worth and identity. How do you describe your own kids to others?

Being immersed in youth sports, we hear many of these. Most are innocuous, but some of these are actually as toxic as a participation trophy.

Continue Reading >

MOST SPORT PARENTS MAKE THIS DANGEROUS MISTAKE

Sport Parents Make This Mistake And It’s Dangerous. 


This is not a click-bait title, this post is about stopping this mistake that can literally save your young athlete! But, parents make this mistake all of the time.

Albert Jennings was one of the top youth golfers in the entire nation before his 15th birthday. He won 90% of the tournaments he entered between ages 10-15 years old. He not only practiced and played golfer every single day and played in a tournament every three days, but he always wore pants when he golfed.  As a kid, he wore pants because was going to be on the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour player and 3x All-American Patrick Rodgers, once asked him “How could [he] get to Albert’s level?” 

So, what happens to the prodigy and wunderkind when they start to struggle? It’s the same thing that happens to all good athletes, it depends on the parents.

As parents, what is the precedent that we set after unsuccessful outcomes and poor results? 

A precedent is a rule or principle that serves as a guide for future decisions. I never thought it was applicable outside of the law and especially to sport parents. Oh my, how I was wrong.


Parents make this mistake of setting a poor precedent after every important game.

  • Do we as parents start drilling them on the way home?
  • Is our role to point out everything they did incorrectly and how they can “get better?”
  • Is comparing them to others a common theme for us?
  • Is the precedent we set immediately calling their coach?
  • Do we hit up another practice session right away?
  • Do we yell or pile on about how they aren’t “trying?”

On a long enough timeline, when do we as parents start to internally panic after enough mediocre results and feel helpless to just fix it for them?

How parents behave and communicate after an event is the precedent that is set. Parents make this mistake by setting bad examples.

When Albert Jennings started to struggle and not meet the super high expectations, the precedent took over, which was “what’s the matter with the swing?” Something is WRONG and we must FIX it! After every single unsuccessful event, it became what’s the matter?

Listen to my guest episode on Parenting Peak Performers Podcast.


Focusing only on the problem and trying to figure it out for them begins a vicious negative cycle. What happens is that The athlete starts to search instead of practice. Very quickly the bottom can drop out because they get away from sound fundamentals. Their confidence which is already fragile now becomes an issue and once athletes lose confidence, it’s difficult to get it back.  

Athlete’s that had success early, yet later on struggle, face a difficult path. They often start to question their own athletic identity of “I win.” More importance is then placed upon results and outcome to regain their identity of “this is who I am.”! Now, they feel like they are on an island by themselves and if they are unluckyenough to be told “it’s all in your head,” then they are shot into the abyss.

If we stare at the abyss long enough, the abyss stares back at us! 

When we set a poor precedent as parents, we are inserting ourselves into the mix of how to fix what went wrong and soon, the young athlete looks for you to solve it for them! We do not build capacity that way, all it does is build dependency. We don’t know what we don’t know, but sadly parents make this mistake of setting the wrong precedent and it can be one of the most detrimental actions toward development.

We all want the best for our own kids, but isn’t it odd that we are the hardest on those who we love the most? We are hardest on them because we also have the highest of expectations for them.

Parents, we NEED to develop a healthy relationship with winning & losing. Setting the correct precedent means simply operating the same after good and bad outcomes! We need to have a game plan before events and think about balance and perspective and keeping the sport pure.

I interviewed Albert and gained so much wisdom from him. His insight is incredible and just know that he’ll be an awesome golf coach!

This article was originally published here.

THE TROUBLE WITH YOUTH ATHLETES TODAY

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”


The first time I heard this quote, I was with one of my favorite coaches at a clinic, Mike Lingenfelter of Munciana Volleyball. We both looked at each other and I spouted off how this quote from probably from the 1950’s.

This quote from from Socrates. Years B.C. Before Christ!

We chuckled in agreement.

One of my favorite quotes about the issues with youth athletes today is simply this…

“Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it.”

Parents joke about how kids don’t interact with one another and just text. Well, when you’re in any lobby, or waiting area, all of those same parents are on their phones thumbing away with texts and emails as well.

One of the biggest ways that we socialize with others is in sports in through our own kids and we become part of the same parent clicks through these teams as well. As parents, we even follow fashion trends often adopted by youth.

The trouble with youth athletes today may be tough to swallow, but it is US. You and Me. Parents.


Here are three ways that we cause the trouble with youth athletes today.


        1. We DO NOT let them fail.

I don’t want a kid striking out with the bases loaded to lose the game.

It sucks, it’s embarrassing, and it hurts.

These events have the potential to really make a lasting impact (if we let it). However, is there a better laboratory in life for a kid to experience this type of failure?

We have the opportunity after these setbacks, to coach our kid up, and let them know that failure is an event, not a person, and to reflect on what they can get better at.  If we allow them to experiences these harsh setbacks in sports at a young age, then they develop the resources to deal, handle, and overcome these negative experiences. The alternative is that they have these setbacks for the first time in college and they do not know how to deal.

Our job as parents and coaches is to build capacity NOT dependency. Do we allow them to fail or do we allow them to blame others for their own mistakes and failures?


       2. We DO NOT allow them to take ownership.

One reason why I wrote Don’t “Should” on Your Kids: Build their Mental Toughness is because of a kid I saw at swim practice.

He was on the side while everyone else was in the pool warming up. I asked if he was okay and he replied that he forgot his goggles and his mom was late bringing them. hmmmmm. I can guarantee on a road trip, this same kid will NEVER forget his hair gel.

The trouble with youth athletes is that when we call their teachers, talk to coach, and save them from messing up, we are removing their ownership and responsibility.

Want to know why we resent having to nag them all the time to clean up their room, or “don’t forget to pack this”, or “do you have your water bottle”? It’s because we never made it a priority for them to accept responsibility and the natural consequences of forgetting something, so we did it for them!


        3. We give them the answers.

We know the answers to life. We’ve experienced it, we’ve gone through it, the good and the painful.

We know that LIFE IS TOUGH! And since it is so difficult, we want to impart and share our experience, strength, and wisdom to those who we love the most. So, we give them the answers and we let them know if you do A, B, & C, then you’ll be successful.

We want to impart our WISDOM to them. But, WISDOM can only come from experience and you can’t google an experience. We are giving them knowledge instead.

Giving them the answers does not improve their experience or allow them to learn it on their own.

One of the biggest frustrations by collegiate coaches is that when adversity hits their players, their athletes cannot figure it out on their own. They want the coaches to tell them how to fix it and what to do, right now! They are not to blame either. It’s what we’ve been doing their entire life.

They ask the questions: “why am I struggling?” “what is going on?” or ” how do I fix this?”  And so we slide them the answers immediately, without allowing them to process, develop their own game plan, and have them assess and reflect.

When we do this enough, we are neglecting their own problem solving and creative skills.

Unfortunately, it’s not how sport or life works. Things will go bad, and we have to be able to adjust and find a way. Check out the article on 4 reasons to save the endangered athlete.


        4. We are too focused on the results.

If parents knew what it took to be a professional athlete, they’d NEVER sign up. The majority of folks have no idea the talent level or sheer obsession it takes to be a professional athlete. However, 26% of parents have reported that their kid could be a professional athlete.  

My question when I hear this absurd number is simply “who told them that?”

We often make decisions based upon the outcome, results, and future benefits that sports can provide. The almighty scholarship. Check out our article of 6 effective ways of getting an athletic scholarship.   

Unfortunately, when we think in these terms, we soon find that they are playing year-round sports, playing every single weekend of travel ball and husband and wife have split responsibilities taking care of different kids. We lose control and feel like (if we don’t do this and this then, they won’t be successful).

A scholarship is a wonderful accomplishment. But, it can’t be the main reason why your son or daughter is playing sports. If it’s the driver, then every single setback, will lead to greater frustration on your part. If frustration has reached a critical mass then you’ll like- 10 reminders if you’re a stressed out parent of an athlete. 

We need to stress and communicate the multiple benefits that simply playing sports can provide: fun, hard work, goals, resiliency, grit, perseverance, communication, and leadership, and tons others!

10 REMINDERS IF YOU’RE A STRESSED OUT PARENT OF AN ATHLETE

1) They Are NOT Going To Be A Professional Athlete.

Along the way, somebody has told you that your kid has talent and that became a drug. In fact, 26% of parents believed that their kid could play professional sports! Twenty Six Percent!! The number is so absurd that it only allows one conclusion, “Who told you that?”

If most people knew what it took to be a pro athlete, they’d never sign up.

We only view the most elite of the elite, the .000001% of professional athletes, like Lebron, Tom Brady, or Serena Williams. We don’t see the d-league basketball player, the guy on the practice squad, or the 87th ranked female tennis player. These players are great professionals as well, but they often live overseas, or travel 30-40 weeks out of the year, and simply don’t make millions of dollars.

Even if your child becomes a professional athlete, they aren’t going to be for very long, It’s a small portion of their life and it’s often finished by 30 or 35 years old. Then it becomes, “now what“? They will rely on the relationships and skills they’ve developed outside of their actual sport talent.

So, as parents, after every championship or setback, just focus on the moment and not allow the picture to get too big like them becoming a professional athlete. Remember this fact even if a coach tells you how good they are and “could be” with their coaching and program.

2) They Are NOT Getting A Full Division I Scholarship.

First, only 2% of high-schools athletes play Division I sports. (I work with many division I athletes so this is tough for me to comprehend because my sample is skewed).  

But, the only men’s sports that offer full-scholarships are basketball and football. Women’s sports with full-scholarships are Tennis, Gymnastics, Basketball, and Volleyball.

All other Division I sports receive monies based upon the athletic program and coaches discretion. Partial scholarships at 60%, 30%, or less are the norm. But, what sounds better? “My daughter earned a scholarship to play at such and such”  OR “My daughter received 40% scholarship to play at such and such?”

Partial scholarships aren’t exactly sexy cocktail party fodder.


Keep Richard Marx in mind and remember it don’t mean nothing until an official grant-in-aid is signed on the dotted line. A verbal offer is meaningless as well as monies supposedly offered.

Other parents will want to play this narrative that their own child received a letter from such and such school, and are “being recruited.” This may not even be true! Yes, they may have received a letter, but that was one of hundreds sent out. A player is not getting recruited until one of the coaches contacts them personally.

So, all of the sacrifices, travel, expenses, and commitment should be decided upon before going down this path of  “full-scholarship.”

3) Look At Div II, III, And NAIA.

If your child loves their sport and has the passion to play and practice, then they can play in college. But, the biggest question for playing in college should be “will they receive PT?”

PT = Playing time…This the currency that every athletes wants to spend.

I know several athletes who were “good enough” to play the the top level of collegiate sports, and they chose to go that path instead of going someplace where they could actually play and contribute on a consistent basis.

Alas, do you as a parent even want them to play Division I? It is another full-time job — 6 am weights, 8 am classes, finished classes by 2:45, practice done by 6PM, study and dinner finished by 11 PM. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

These different levels of collegiate play are highly competitive and are excellent options to explore. Great academics + college experience  = Winning as a Parent of an Athlete. These other levels are a part-time job compared to the full-time job of Division I.

Scholarships are augmented through academic monies, so your child carrying a 3.7 GPA can receive grant-in-aid from both athletic and academic.

4) Call Them THIS.

How do you introduce and describe you child?

Here is perfect little Rachel” or “This is Johnny, our star second baseman.” The words we use to describe our own child carries meaning. Rachel certainly isn’t perfect and what happens if Johnny gets hurt or doesn’t make the all-star team?

5) Can’t Want It More Than Them.

“The will to prepare has to be greater than the will to win.” – Bobby Knight

Passion is the pre-requisite for achieving anything great in life. As bad as you may “want it” for them, if they don’t take ownership and want it themselves, then the struggle will be real.

Those that have passion often don’t have to be asked to practice, nagged to work on something, or coerced into playing. There’s a good saying that goes along the lines of  “it’s tough to be driven when you’re being driven.” They are the one’s that have to want it.

These conversations need to take place about what are their goals, what do they want from you, and what do they NOT want from you. Check this article out about one way to build motivation in your child…

6) Ride The Carousel, NOT The Emotional Roller Coaster.

There is a funny saying on tour amongst caddy’s about how their player performed. When it’s good,  it’s “WE shot 67″  OR it’s “HE shot 75″ if he played poorly.

If you treat every performance as life and death, then you’re on the roller coaster of emotions and you’ll be dead! Vicarious parents live through their child, whereas supportive parents live with their child.

Your role as a parent of an athlete is to provide balance, stability, and support in their life. You must remain detached from outcomes! If you get caught up in the drama or results of winning and losing, then you can’t remain level-headed.

The carousel is not much fun, but’ it’s the only ride that you should do as a parent.

7) Body Language Doesn’t Talk, It Screams.

In sports, we see positive and negative body language all of the time. But, are you aware of your own body language as a parent?

I’m here to break it to you, but since they were little, they watched for your reaction in the crowd. They saw you slumping in your chair, looking at your phone, or throwing your hands up in disgust. Your own body language spoke so loud, they didn’t even need to hear what we were saying. 

Negative body language does not show that we care or are passionate, it communicates that we are not confident. We are signaling that we do not have faith in our own child or that they can turn it around and make a good play.

This is not easy, but essential — Your own body language must ride the carousel as well. It must be confident and supportive. Head up, clapping or cheering and if they do look, always a thumbs up!

8) Do Not Go Back To The Cook.

How many of you have eaten out at restaurants? I love it as well.

So, how many times have you returned a dish and told the cook “THIS is how you prepare shrimps & grits?”

Almost never, right?

So why do we feel that we can go talk to coach about our son and daughter or their coaching style or type of plays? Parents yell, coach from the stands, complain, even write anonymous emails to administration or other parents. I’m here to let you know to STOP IT.

If your own son or daughter wants to develop the skill of communication and ownership, then it is their responsibility to talk to coach about playing time on their own. Role play with them all you want, but it is ultimately up to them.

9) Talk About All Pressure Situations Here.

Coach Jeff Van Gundy said “We talk about all pressure situations in non-pressure environments.”

He didn’t want the team or coaches to come up with a last second defense or shot in the moment. They had already discussed all of those situations the evening before. So, when those pressure moments hit, they already had a plan in place.

There are good times to provide feedback and there are not good times. During the car ride home is NOT the time to offer unsolicited advice.

We need to set up times when we are all cool, calm, and collected that we discuss all emotionally charged discussions.

10) It’s NOT Who Gets There First, It’s Who Can Get There and Stay There.

The best twelve-year olds in the nation right now (pick the sport) should be the best 14-year olds, 18-year olds, become the star in college and win an Olympic gold medal or professional championship! Right?

It happens, but rarely.

But, we still rank the top 7th graders in the nation!

It is rare because there are so many factors when it comes to long-term success that we neglect the long-term and only focus on the short-term. We look at the short-term development with a microscope and speculate into the future with a telescope!

Here’s the point! There will be many challenges and losses and failures along the way. If we don’t allow them to experience these setbacks, then we retard their eventual progress as an athlete and person. It’s only having gone through these difficult times that produces our character. Besides, it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback.

Sport teaches whatever we want it to teach, so as a parent of an athlete, are we only focused on what our child can get out of sport, or do we care more about all of the lessons that he/she can learn FROM sport?

Leadership, creativity, effort, passion, confidence, teamwork, communication, perseverance, mental toughness, focus, letting go of mistakes, handling conflict, overcoming obstacles, and being in the zone are all skills that will last WAY BEYOND when their sport career is over.

We need to trust the process when it comes to development as a person.

If you have some additional reminders, please email me.  Maybe it’ll make the next book. 

4 REASONS TO SAVE THE ENDANGERED ATHLETE…

The Bison once roamed North America and met the needs of an entire population of indigenous people. However, The bison merely became a creature for it’s hide and almost became extinct. Once as many as 60 million bison roamed and was limited down to only 300 total in 1900. Thankfully, the numbers have returned to over 400,000.

The multi-sport athlete is becoming extinct. We need to save the endangered athlete.

It was once revered for the many benefits multiple sports provided; fun, teamwork, creativity, self-governing, motivation, fitness, and confidence. However, lost somewhere between adolescence and puberty is the specialist, an athlete whose sole purpose is to try and excel at one sport.

Seek, Kill, & Destroy.

The difference however between the bison and the multi-sport athlete is that humans could never domesticate the American Buffalo. It was just too powerful. However, we have been able to contain the multi-sport athlete. The specialist, and his or parents, live under the guise that if you play different sports; then “you’ll fall behind” or “you’ll get hurt.”  Hence, youth sport now littered with young kids only playing one sport year round.

That is why we need to save the endangered athlete.

The latter “you’ll get hurt” is a major misnomer that has been shown to have the opposite effect. Athletes that specialize have a greater rate of injury compared to non-specialized athletes.

“You’ll get left out” is the true bison in the room.

Here’s 4 reasons to play multi-sports…

1) The sport skills transfer!

87% of the draft picks in the 2015 NFL draft were multi-sport athletes. This isn’t a one-year anomaly either. The average hovers around 70%. All athletic movements transfer! Quickness, running, jumping, agility, throwing, etc. all transfer. For instance, jumping for a basketball is similar and builds the same muscles need to push off the blocks in swimming and have a good kick.

2) Multi-sport athletes have a higher sport I.Q.

They develop a feel for any game that they are playing. They are more creative and less mechanical in their approach. For instance, there are 10-year olds who look like demi-gods in the batting cage, but have no idea how to run the bases. A recent phenomenon in volleyball has occurred in which some players in college have never served a ball in competition, ever.

3) Burnout becomes less frequent in multi-sport athletes.

How long do you think going to 6 showcase events and traveling each weekend in the summer to compete remains fun? Trust the process, once every single tournament becomes a must do, the fewer tournaments actually are. Maintain the passion and fun by allowing breaks and time-off.

4) Multi-sport athletes learn to compete.

Each sport is different and requires different levels of focus and resiliency. So, in order to become mentally tough, they need to be in different sport situations that test their resilience and ability to comeback. If they learn to compete early on, that skill will transfer into other areas as well. We can compete in anything…

  • Marcelo Chierighini was SEC swimmer of the year at Auburn, a national champion and Olympian; he didn’t start swimming until age 16.
  • Maverik McNealy, golfer at Stanford University, the top ranked amateur golfer in the United States, played hockey and soccer as well as golf into his senior year at high-school. The balance, stability, and core strength required in hockey transferred into golf.
  • Future hall of Famer, Steve Nash, played soccer, rugby, and basketball in high school.

Lastly, the single sport specialist isn’t the worst culprit. It’s the multi-single sport specialist! The new wave of overlapping specialized sports, where one team and league overlaps one another. Where is the time to play unorganized games? That’s how you save the endangered athlete.

Save Your Kid When You Remember This One Mental Toughness Tip

Remember that one player as a youth who somehow had a beard? Typically the best athletes at younger ages are the biggest and the most physically developed.

So, won’t the best 12-year-olds in the nation will be the best professionals, and major champion winners, olympic medalists and so on? It rarely happens, because of the many factors that go into long-term development!

Let’s compare two youth athletes’ journeys because the mental toughness tip is: It’s not who gets there first, it’s who can get there and stay there.

Golf is a sport where physical development is less important and occurs much later. It’s such a mental game, so this kid had a proverbial mental beard. He played beyond his years, didn’t make mistakes, and won—a lot.

He was not only the number-one 12-year-old golfer in California, but he was so good that at one international tournament he shot 73-70 and won it by sixteen shots!

When he finished sixth at Junior World Golf Championships that same year—the best field in the world, he was disappointed. At that time in California, future PGA champion Rickie Fowler looked up to this kid.

As a freshman in high school, every collegiate program wanted this golfer, and everyone approached him.


The expectations for this young man were tremendous, and he admitted that when he began to struggle, he thought he was letting everyone down. When his physical growth occurred, his golf swing changed, he became confused with mechanics, started enjoying other sports, and soon lost confidence.

Remember, confidence is king. Although, that’s not the mental toughness tip.

Luckily, his stellar grades buffered him from finding his complete identity in being only a golfer.

He still managed to play in college, but at a much lower level. This golfer’s name, Joe Skovron, would later become Rickie Fowler’s caddy on the PGA Tour. An excellent gig, but this isn’t the mental toughness tip.


In comparison, the other youth athlete played all different competitive sports at a younger age, including football, baseball, and basketball.

Everyone in the state of Indiana played basketball, and his dad played basketball in college, so his dad struggled somewhat when he stopped playing.

The expectation was never for this kid to play professional golf.

He didn’t start playing competitive golf until 12 years old, which means he started playing at a much later age than others. The expectations from every round of golf were to have fun, learn something, have a positive experience and make a friend.

In an eighth grade tournament, he shot an 89 in the first round. In the car ride, they didn’t discuss the round at all—only the excellent par on the last hole. He responded by shooting a 71 the next day.

Patrick Rodgers’ development and passion for golf took off in high school.

His dad and mom always allowed golf to be their son’s thing. They didn’t push. Patrick ended up playing golf at Stanford, tied Tiger Woods’ record with eleven wins, became the number-one ranked collegiate golfer, won the Ben Hogan award, and turned professional after his junior season.

Stories about late-bloomers, two or three star athletes are numerous. The mental toughness tip is to be patient and remember kids are as only as good as their practice and passion towards it. The passion of a player translates into their dedication, work-ethic, and overall mentality.

SPORTS PARENTS: 6 WAYS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG…

I love my kids more than anything. So, I get it, how they perform is important to me. But their performance is not a reflection of my parenting, just a shadow. The most important elements of youth sports is passion- a love for their sport! Each of the following recommendation is related to nurturing their own passion. Remember, sport teaches whatever we want it to teach…

Here are 6 ways that sports parents are doing it wrong.


1. Wanting it more than them- I get calls every single week from parents wanting our mental coaching for their son/daughter. I have to screen each parent, and one question I ask them, “Is this something your child wants?”  Whatever the situation they have to want it, period.  No matter the sport, the best athletes have that passion. They don’t have to be asked to work at it, because they love it.

2. Not allowing them to fail- Losing hurts and it should hurt. The pain eventually subsides, but if we remove the failure, setbacks, and allowing them ownership of their mistakes, than we actually cheapen the joy of winning. How can we truly appreciate winning and improvement if we have never lost? The safety net for children has become dangerously close to actually touching them. They know mom or dad (sports parents) will take care of it… Example: “I forgot my glove, my gatorade, jersey, goggles, putter, etc, Mom and dad will pick it up for me.”

3. Traveling too early- It’s the gateway drug to specialization. Anything before late middle school is too early. A few travel tournaments or matches here and there is great, its fun! But even for young kids, the trips have become every single weekend. Here’s the danger, it becomes expensive and once they start traveling, it’s too easy to buy the idea that they now have to pick a sport and stay with it. Specialization isn’t all that either because the specific movements with different sports actually transfer. Jumping, running, throwing, all transfer across sports! Playing a variety of sports achieves that goal of skill development. Plus, each sport offers a unique advantage, competitiveness. When they learn to compete in many different sports, they will eventually transfer that skill of competitiveness to their favorite!

 4. Not emphasize & reward effort- Effort is everything. But as sports parents, we forget that. If we only emphasize the outcome, athletes will learn and internalize “all that matters is winning.”  Players that are good will win early and often, until they no longer win. If parents only emphasize rankings, final scores, and talent, then taking risks, addressing weaknesses, and competing become afterthoughts. At some point, they are no longer the best, and they can become stuck in limbo between past expectations and low confidence. Question for sports parents: shouldn’t the best 12-year old in the nation almost always be one the best 18-year olds? Rarely happens because winning and outward appearance was rewarded instead.

5. Blame coach, system, or refs- I was sitting next to a parent of a future DI basketball player whose brother had made it to the NBA. This sport parent was miserable and every single play or refs call that did not go his son’s way, was heard by everyone including his son. I cried on the inside, because there is no way that this kid was happy either. A little league coach once told me when he knew parents were talking about him because the kids would no longer look him in the eye. Sad…It’s about progress not perfection. It’s not your role to call or blame coach about playing time, change coaches or schools, or get a lesson every time they play bad.

6. Over-communicating with them– There are good opportunities to talk about their performance and not good ones. During the game is NOT the appropriate time. However, all the time, parents are communicating with their son/daughter. Body language doesn’t talk, it screams, and they can see your negative behavior. Also, the stands can be packed with hundreds or thousands of screaming people, and the ONE voice they will recognize is yours! Why are you trying to coach them during their performance?

I get it, no one has an ugly child, but if he/she becomes great, then they will get noticed. Really want to be a good sport parent? Just tell them, “I love watching you play.”