Every kid growing up playing sports has, at one point or another, watched their favourite athlete on TV and wished they could be them. Yet, most of these thoughts and dreams go unheard or are given up for something like income or a girl. The people that this affects the most are those from smaller towns, they usually just play the sports through high school then get caught up in work or cannot commit to moving somewhere where they can continue playing.

There are many different ways to keep your eyes on the prize and your head in the right direction. Most athletes have the most supporting parents but are often seen as annoying as the child. There is a fine balance that needs to be established between the athlete and the parent. Parents have to be invasive enough to know where their kids head is at, but maintain a safe distance as to give them the freedom they think they have. The athlete has to be open with their parents and give them input on every situation, what they think and why.

Athletes who take their sport seriously have heard of the 10,000 hour rule and those who want to take it to the next level should question this rule. They should question the fact if they have had the right amount of training or if they have reached their maximum potential before ‘hanging up the skates’. Kids who grow up playing sports often narrow their choices down to one or two committed sports as they get older. And as these athletes get into higher levels they only know their sport, they wake up, eat, train, eat, train, eat, sleep, and repeat. They have limited exposure to what their similar age counterparts are experiencing in their past times, this can lead to discouragement of a sport, but with the right surrounding support from family, friends, and teammates they can fend off these feelings and keep striving toward their goals.

A few contributors to a great athlete are their ability to lead and their ability to maintain their name. “Leaders create leaders not followers” is a great quote to guide an athlete, whether or not it helps them in their sport, those who have good connections with other players and coaches are the ones who are offered more opportunities and chances to grow. What I mean by maintaining a name will be determined by actions on and off the court. Anytime an athlete has an interview or does something wrong/spectacular in a game, they are constantly being judged, and what they do/say will affect their future, one wrong move and it could cost them their career.

Being mindful of not only the skillset in game, but the mental aspect of the game and surrounding life will help develop the athlete. They should peruse the characteristics of a great leader, one who is inspiring, motivating, and a mentor for other athletes. But of all things an athlete can do, the worst thing is wait. If they have the slightest desire to play a sport, peruse it now, don’t wait until 30 then look back and say ‘I wish I would have done this/that’.

By: Preston Dufault