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Sierra Soleimani
August 15, 2016

How To Develop Successful Athletes


athletic development

High dropout rates are one trend that is consistent in all youth sports. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70% of children will drop out of sports by the age of 13. As coaches and parents, we can help our athletes develop a solid sports foundation that will keep them involved with the sport throughout their life. Here are five youth coaching tips to help you develop a successful athlete.


Not every athlete on your team is headed for a college sports scholarship. In fact, it might be fair to say that majority of your team is in it, because they love to play. According to a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they participate in sports. When they were asked to define "fun", "winning" was No. 48 (out of 81) on their list. Competition and enjoyment do not have to be mutually exclusive. If your athletes are not having fun, they are probably not going to want to stick around for long.  Of course, there are aspects of sports that no one particularly enjoys, such as conditioning or early morning practice, but as long as the experience as a whole is fun, student-athletes will be less likely to quit.

Here are some things you can do to maintain the fun on your field:

  • Keep an upbeat attitude - it's okay to show your silly side
  • Facilitate team bonding experiences, such as field trips, team meals or movie nights
  • Praise skill improvement
  • Create an individual athlete development plan and check in often to discuss progress
  • Let everyone get play time. Yes. Everyone. 
  • Make mundane conditioning fun by using games and music

Multiple Sports

Before an athlete can specialize in one sport, they must develop the basic skill set. Research shows that early specialization leads to increased dropout rates, overuse injuries, early burnout, overemphasis on sport-specific preparation and a lack of basic movement skill development.

Encouraging athletes to join multiple sports helps develop athletic foundations such as balance, agility, body control and sportsmanship. It also allows them to work on muscles that they don't normally use. 

Help them pick a sport during off-season that has transferable skills. For example, Football players can play basketball in the winter and lacrosse in spring to help them develop agility and reaction time. Water Polo players can swim in winter to help with endurance and sprints. 

Strong Coaching Values

Successful athletes do not happen without effective coaching. So, what makes a good coach? Here are some key characteristics when learning how to be a successful coach...

  • Doesn't focus on winning or losing
  • Tough, but fair
  • Adapts training plans to fit athlete's skills and needs
  • Doesn't play favorites
  • Doesn't lose your temper or put players down

Coaching education

One of the most important foundations for building a long-term athletes is having a well-educated coach. While most high schools and governing bodies require coaches education, it always good to stay up to date in your sport. Improve your coaching skills by subscribing to industry publications, collaborating with other coaches and attending regular conferences and seminars. 


As a coach, you want to be the passenger that guides your athlete on the roads, not take over the wheel and show them how it's done. Kids are more engaged when they have control over their work. Not only does it instill initiative, but it also gives them ownership over their own experience and goals. Whether it's choices in conditioning drills or music, let your athletes make some of their choices. 

The main thing to remember is that kids play sports to have fun and exert their energy. The longer you foster that and incorporate that into your coaching, the longer they will love sports. 

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