Non-Linear Athlete Development: Understanding the Nature

Part 2 of a 5 Part Presentation on 5 Essential Things All Parents Must Understand, I discuss the nature of non-linear Athlete Development.  In this clip, I dive into the process of skill acquisition/development, how children learn, and pitfalls we run into when we compare our children to others.  With a heightened focus on developing a love of the game, parents can help their child feel most inspired.


Number two is this understanding, parents need a deeper understanding and knowledge regarding athlete development. There's a lot of components to athlete development that we could get into here. I sort of narrow down and want to talk about a handful of them. But this is important to start with, is that this is the way we often imagine our children will go through their soccer experience, that they'll start as a rec player, and they'll just kind of work their way up. And they have this dream of a college scholarship or pro contract, whatever that might be, and that they will just have this path of getting there.

This is actually what the path really looks like, is this concept that development and athlete development is not a linear process. There are lots of ups and downs and backward movements. And as we're going along on this process and most importantly, and what we really need to understand as parents when it comes to athlete development, is that for the vast majority of our children, the vast majority of our children, this is what it'll look like. They will never get a scholarship to college.

But their athlete development is really essential to their growing into a functioning adult that's healthy and has a healthy adulthood, and also has a deep connection to the game that they will carry with them for life. So maybe this will be the child that plays club soccer in college, or will become a coach or a referee or a big fan of the game and find a deep connection to the game just from being a fan. So we need to really understand that development is non-linear.

The second thing that parents really need to understand about athlete development is just developing an understanding of the comparison trap. This is kind of related to what I was just talking about in terms of how development isn't linear. So our kids are developing, they go through these ups and these downs and all of these moments. And I think this is really relatable for people. And we especially see this, I especially see this, I feel like in the age where I'm coaching this U 10 age, because some kids have so much stronger understanding of the game than others, or all sorts of kids are at such a key moments for learning that one game they'll be able to execute on a certain task and the next game they won't.

And so we'll think they've learned something, but they haven't necessarily yet. So there's lots of ups and downs. And what happens with the comparison trap as parents, we see other children on the field that are, keep going, and we see our children, our child take this little dip. And this key blue triangle is where things get really stressful. This is where we as parents start putting too much pressure on our children, where we talk to them too much after the game, where we give them long pre-game talks about how they can be exceptional at this game or what they're going to do at practice, or we get too stressed.

And whereas parents, we feel like our stress level is really rising, usually it's because this is happening and this blue space has formed. And most unfortunately what often happens is that children drop out of the game at this point. So extremely important for us as parents to be aware of this sort of comparison trap. Also having this perspective on what real development looks like for our children, so that we understand eventually where they're going to get. Likely not up to the collar scholarship space, but just across developing a love of the game that they'll have for life. And we need to let them have their own journey through the game.

I really think this is important, is that we need to as parents focus on just developing this love of the game, like I just said. Just this connection and helping our children develop a connection to sport and to their teammates and learning all these great life lessons, because that's really what this experience and this youth sporting experience will be all about.

Want to See the Complete Presentation?

Become a member at the

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related Posts

Skye Eddy

Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.