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Sep
22

How to Teach Focus at a Young Age

            Many coaches tend to start seeing their first gray hairs while trying to maintain focus throughout practice or a game with female athletes.  As an adult, we sometimes forget how difficult it is for a young female athlete to stay focused for a 2 hour practice, listen to a 10 minute lecture, or even pay attention to a 2 minute play.  At a young age, female athletes are thinking about more things than you want them to or even things you did not know they were thinking.

Young, female athletes are thinkers, daydreamers, and socialites, for the most part.  Many of them enjoy going to practice simply for the socializing rather than actually playing the sport.  You have to remember, a sport at a young age isn’t necessarily about a sport yet, and as a coach and a parent, you want to keep this in mind.  Joining a team is incredibly important for female athletes to learn how to socialize with other athletes, learn how to work in groups, and learn how to communicate effectively with their peers.  It is also a time for young athletes to learn mechanics, the basics of the game, and of course, to have fun.  At 10 years old, you want your athlete to enjoy the game and develop memories that they will have for a lifetime.

With this said, this does not mean young athletes need to lack structure.  Young athletes can be shaped at this age to learn discipline, and focus, while enjoying their time on the field.  So how do you help these female athletes maintain focus through long practices and games?  Patience.  Coaches and parents of female athletes need a lot of patience and a lot of persistence to develop structure amongst several 10 year old female athletes running amuck.  When a coach loses their temper, or shows their frustration with lack of focus from their young team, the athletes will notice this and continue to act out.  Young female athletes tend to avoid negative feedback and will continue to do what makes them happy instead, i.e. messing around on the field.

So now that you are patient with your team, and they have your attention, how do you maintain their attention for the next few hours?  Play games.  Young female athletes love to play games, and love to win games.  When you create competition in your practices, your athletes will tend to stay focused.

For example: say you are losing your female athletes attention towards the end of practice and you want them to finish the last 20 minutes.  As a coach, call everyone in and say you are playing a game.  The game is to see how many athletes can hit the ball to centerfield.  If 5 out of 10 athletes hit the ball to centerfield, the whole team doesn’t have to run to the tree and back.

A game like this will promote competitiveness because they don’t want to run to the tree.  It will also help maintain team unity as they need to work together to accomplish the goal, meaning that all of the athletes will stay involved because the punishment is for the entire team; not a “single loser”.  Not only are you just playing a game, but your team is working to hit the ball to centerfield, i.e. up the middle, the ideal hitting zone.

By remaining patient and promoting teamwork through consecutive games or activities, young athletes will maintain focus, determination, and competitiveness throughout your practices and games.  Not only will the athletes learn different mechanics through their games at practice, they will also have fond memories of the fun they had with their team.

 

Key Points for Maintaining Focus in a Young Athlete

 

1.) Be patient.  Young, female athletes have a very imaginative mind and like to share every thought and feeling they have.  Listen to them, ask them questions, and bring them back to focus when they are done sharing with you.

 

2.) Play games.  Young, female athlete can be highly competitive and like to participate in games.  The more games you play, the more you will maintain focus in your practices

 

3.) Remember that these girls are young athletes.  They are playing a game because they think it is fun, not hard work.  Let them be young and enjoy the game as much as possible while still giving them direction and structure.

3 comments

  1. Robin P. says:

    Thank you for this fascinating article. I am a female athlete myself. I am a female boxer and I truly appreciate the thoughts you have put into this article. Focus and dedication are truly essential for a young athlete. Not many possess these characteristics. Thank you!

  2. Jodi Murphy says:

    “a sport at a young age isn’t necessarily about a sport yet”

    A very good point. Doubtless some of your girls are there to play hard and be really competitive, but for many girls, especially if this is their first time playing organized sports, they are just there to have a good time with their friends. It is possible to find a balance between the two.

  3. Haid Garrett says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this article. I was lucky enough to grow up attend a school where participating in sports was encouraged as well as efforts to make sure girls stayed in sports, pursued them past high school. As well, sports were seen a vehicle for growth and positive self image. It is unfortunate that not all young girls engaged in sports are given the same support and

    I like your call to attention that female athletes must be coached in a different manner. It is exciting to see programs like ZGirls – http://www.gozgirls.com put emphasis on this same topic you speak to and put a stake in the ground around supplemental curriculum, specific to a sport, for young female athletes.

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