One of the pleasures of a thirty-plus-year career as a kinesiologist has been working with young athletes.
As residents of a community filled with young athletes ripe with potential, it would behoove us to recognize that the development of any athlete to his or her ultimate potential is a long-term process.
The science of long-term development is a hallmark of Canada’s Sport For Life flagship publication, Long-Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity. This science-backed approach to sport and physical activity serves as a framework for the development of Canadian children, youth and adults to enable optimal participation in sport and physical activity.
While it focuses on the goal of lifelong activity and participation in sport, Sport For Life has helped establish a uniquely Canadian approach to the development of young athletes. Its values are collaboration, innovation, inclusion, and integrity. The program is divided into three goals: develop physical literacy, seek excellence and remain active for life.
More often than not, athlete preparation is geared toward the short-term outcome – winning – and not to the development process. Sport For Life focuses on the long term, not the short-term wins.
To reach full potential, athletes need well-planned, progressive, high-quality training over many years. Success cannot be rushed. A “hothouse” approach can produce early winners, but it hinders long-term development and ultimate athlete success. It can also lead to burnout and overuse injury. There has to be balance – and a long-term approach.
Developing an active mindset
While striving for excellence and a podium position is admirable, we cannot lose the joy in sport. By following a long-term development, we can produce champions, and also inspire a generation to find enjoyment in their sport of choice and a desire to remain active for life.