Part 4 of the Athletic and Social Development Are Keys To Being Active For Life
By Jimmy Yoo
At this stage we transition from the teenage years to adulthood. During the teenage years, emphasis was on learning to specialize in different areas of life and developing a self-identity as a person. It is the last stage of fundamental development where commitment and dedication to mastery are learned. If an athlete is able to successfully navigate the teenage years, it will make their transition into adulthood and the competitive environment easier to manage.
Young Adulthood: Competition Ready (ages 20+)
Erickson Stage 6 (Intimacy versus Isolation, 20’s to late 30’s); LTAD Stage 6 (Train to Win, girls age 18+/boys age 19+)
Erickson Stage 6 (Intimacy versus Isolation, 20’s to late 30’s)(Train to Win, girls age 18+/boys age 19+)
This focus is on intimacy/love in relationships. Erikson believed that you are not developmentally progressing unless you are capable of intimacy.
Erickson’s Stage 5 (Identity versus Role-Confusion, age 12-18)
If you were able to develop in this, then you will be able to form relationships with others who have also achieved a sense of identity. If you are not able to resolve this conflict successfully, then you will struggle to have relationships that involve sharing, feel closeness, and/or committing to another person.
LTAD Stage 6 (Train to Win, girls age 18+/boys age 19)
This athlete is a full-time competitor who is seeking to win national and international events and dedicating herself/himself to the pursuit of excellence and success (i.e., trophies, medals, and podiums). Athletes at this level are competing professionally or at the highest level their sport allows. At this point, technical skills, tactical education, and physical growth should be complete, or very close, and it’s all about the results.
Also of note, at this stage there is no “I” in “team.” Athletes competing in individual and team sports have a support network that includes coaches, physicians, nutritionists, great parents, and a sport psychologist who are working with them on a daily basis. It’s an athlete’s personal team that is helping to keep them healthy, motivated, focused, and produce consistent peak performance.
Athletes at the elite level can run the risk of dedicating too much of their time and energy toward pursuing excellence and being successful in competition. This is when athletes run the risk of experiencing burnout and losing their love for the game.
For example, athletes who have been highly successful up to this point may lose motivation because they start to wonder things like, “I’ve been highly successful in competition, what next,” “Everyone, including myself expects me to win every time I compete and when I don’t, I am letting myself down and I am letting everyone else down too,” or “Focusing on winning and losing has taken the fun out of competing.”
At this point, athletes are considering life outside of competitive sports, and are starting to list the pros and cons of why they should continue on or call it quits. They may find that they are in their prime, meaning that they are still healthy enough to compete, and/or still have something to prove. Yet, they are lacking the motivation or competitive fire to compete.
It is at this point that athletes have to tap into or rekindle their original passion. Get back to that first love of the sport, remind themselves of why they started playing in the first place, which for most, involves what made it fun in the first place. A quote that serves as a nice reminder is this:
“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back….play for her.”
-Mia Hamm (pro soccer player 1987-2004)
All You Need is Love
Years ago I remember listening to a lecture by former Olympic runner. He was a middle distance runner who won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a silver medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. What stuck out from that lecture were his struggles leading up to his second Olympic appearance.
He stated that during that four-year span between 1984-1988 he was completely dedicated to his training, focused on his desire to run his fastest races, and to medal in another Olympics. He spoke about this goal being his obsession. He was highly successful in 1984 as he was a NCAA Champion in his event, won a gold in the Olympics, in 1985 he was ranked the number one runner in the world, and even broke the world record in his event.
His obsession with training and his determination to run faster would lead to years struggling with injury. Looking back, he realized that his obsession during that time between the Los Angeles Olympics and Seoul Olympic caused him to over train, to question his identity as an athlete, and to burn out.
Rekindling Competitiveness & Motivation
To rekindle his competitive fire/motivation, he stated that meeting his future wife and falling in love with her gave him perspective. He talked about how his relationship made him realize what he referenced as the “bigger than me” moment. Many athletes describe this moment as coming to understand the importance of believing in and/or giving to something outside of themselves.
For this athlete, falling in love helped him to see that there was more to life than just the pursuit of running. He referred to this moment as his understanding that what he was doing as a runner was small in comparison to all the things happening around him in the world.
While small, he felt a connection that helped him to become more in touch with himself as a person, as well as being an athlete. His love for his wife and what I see as him finding a balance in his self-identity as a runner and who he was outside of sport, allowed him to find his passion for sport and for life. It was this perspective that allowed him to reconnect with why he loved running and competing in the first place. As a result, he went on to qualify and medal in another Olympics, and continue to run professionally for over a decade.
Active for Life and Giving Back (Ages 30+)
Erickson Stage 7 (Generativity versus Stagnation, age 40-60) and Erickson Stage 8 (Integrity versus Despair, ages 60 to the end of life); LTAD Stage 7 (Active for Life, any age)
Erickson Stage 7 (Generativity versus Stagnation, age 40-60)
This is the process of helping to develop the next generation in hopes that they are able to live meaningful lives. One example, when adults choose to become parents. Erikson stated that parents need children as much as children need parents; and if this crisis is not resolved, then that person will remain self-centered and experience stagnation (McLeod, 2013).
Erickson Stage 8 (Integrity versus Despair, 60 to the end of life)
This is the process of looking back and evaluating your life. At this stage adults reflect on past accomplishments and failures to determine whether they have lived a fulfilling life or one filled with regret and lost opportunities. If an adult has achieved a sense of fulfillment about life and a sense of unity with others, then he or she accepts death with a sense of integrity. Erickson stated, “Just as a healthy child will not fear life, the healthy adult will not fear death (McLeod, 2013).”
LTAD Stage 7 (Active for Life, any age)
This is the goal for long term athletic development – creating lifelong athletes or people who exercise to be healthy, happy, and active from childhood to adulthood. Active for life as a philosophy that stresses lifelong participation in sports and other activities is not just for elite athletes, but for all adults if we want to promote better health and wellness (http://sportforlife.ca.).
At this point in a person’s life, he/she has mastered certain skills and is now looking to pass his/her knowledge on to the next generation. In sports, it’s common to see former athletes “pay it forward” or to give back by serving as coaches, mentors, administrators, officials, and policy makers in sport.
Being active for life starts by developing a comfort and love for sports and physical activity. The greatest gift we can give our kids is to teach them to be physically active in life. Participating in sports provides a wealth of knowledge and experience that athletes can reference when faced with difficult situations or when they set goals that are difficult to attain, be it in a sport or other situations in life. In the end, this is why we want our kids to participate in sports: we want them to learn what it means to work hard, what it takes to be successful, what it means to fail, what it means to experience set backs, and how to overcome set backs and challenges.
My belief is that as parents, the hope is that sports help to teach our children:
“To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honors with humility – these are marks of maturity and graciousness.”
– William Arthur Ward
Parents, Things to Remember
At the end of the day, it is good to have dreams and aspirations for our children, but it is vitally important to make sure that our kids enjoy just playing in the moment, and that we, as parents, are allowing them to develop physically and emotionally at their own pace. Remember, like all things in life, sports and being physically active is a process.
- Research all avenues and make the best-informed decision as it relates to a particular sport, the organizations/teams in those sports, and the coaches. Find out what their mission is and how they support the development of the athlete.
- Listen and observe your child-athlete to see if they are enjoying their sport(s) and if they are connecting with coaches and teammates.
- Stay grounded in the present moment. Don’t get carried away thinking about your child’s future in the sport, or with the potential that you and/or others see in your child.
- Wear one hat at a time. Parents wear many hats or have multiple identities that include being parents to your kids; being a son or daughter; being a brother or sister; being a working professional, and there may even be times you coach your kids in their sport.
To be fully present for our kids, we need to wear one hat at a time. For example, if you are watching your child play their sport, you need to be there as the parent or spectator to cheer your kid on and support them. If you get caught up wearing multiple hats, like being a parent and trying to be the coach from the sidelines, you send mixed messages that can cause confusion and resentment from your child.
As a high performance coach, when I ask athletes who they love to have in the bleachers at competitions, the number one answer is grandparents. They say that grandma or grandpa just come to watch and always tend to say, “We just love watching you play!”