Ask any successful athlete about the key to their success and they’re likely to mention discipline. Rightly so, discipline is an essential foundation for any sport. It builds an athlete’s character to help them set their mind to achieve great things. Beyond sports, it is also instrumental to succeed in other areas of life.
Participating in sports early in life gives a lifelong sense of discipline in children. Coaches, in particular, play an important role in instilling discipline in young athletes. Coaches should be aware of this responsibility and show their athlete the benefits they can get from being disciplined.
Here are some of these benefits:
They learn the value of hard work.Discipline teaches the value of hard work. As with most things, there are no shortcuts. Any athlete, regardless of their level, has to work hard to improve and reach their full potential. If Nastia Liukin didn’t have the discipline to devote her time and efforts to master gymnastics, we might have never heard of her.
Hard work can often be as valuable as ‘natural’ athletic talent. Let your athlete know that talent without hard work isn’t enough to be successful.
They learn to sacrifice some things.Discipline often means cutting back on some things (TV time, video games) that get in the way of fully concentrating on the sport they love. Try setting up a ‘reward system’ when your athlete achieves something so that they won’t feel too repressed. It might be difficult at first for a young athlete to cope but, with the right guidance, they can see that these sacrifices are necessary and expected of them.
They learn to deal with losses.Every athlete experiences losses several times in their careers. It’s important to remind your athlete to discipline themselves by not dwelling on the loss but instead learning from it to improve their performance next time. After all, losses are only temporary setbacks.
They learn how to set and accomplish goals.Successful athletes know how to set both short-term and long-term goals. Discipline teaches a child how to set goals (Learn a new skill? Improve techniques?) and focus their efforts in accomplishing these. The athletic goal-setting skills a child acquires can be applied in other areas in their lives.
They learn the value of practice and preparation.Having self-discipline makes it easier for a child to recognize the importance of practice and preparation in reaching goals (as an individual or a team). Make it a point to regularly emphasize the importance of these two things.
Here are some tips for coaches to help them instill discipline in young athletes:
Be time-conscious.Coaches should arrive early during sessions to greet and prepare their athlete. If a child sees that being on time is a priority for their coach, they’ll be more likely to do the same. Have a written schedule and give a copy to the athlete and their parents. Trainings should also end on time so that parents won’t have to wait around for long periods.
Be prepared.Coaches should also be well-prepared to avoid any problems that could arise during trainings or competitions. Every session should have concrete goals to ensure that everything is organized.
Communicate your goals clearly.It’s important for coaches to clearly communicate their goals, rules, and expectations to their athlete. Providing feedback should also be done regularly to help the athlete improve their skills.
Set rules and follow them.As a coach, you are expected to set rules for your athlete. Make sure these rules are realistic and beneficial in the long run. Whether it’s arriving on time or avoiding unhealthy food, take the initiative to set good examples and encourage them to follow suit.