How to support a talented child athlete

John O'Sullivan, Founder of Changing The Game Project, shares advice on how to support a talented child athlete while still keeping them open and respectful about other sports and topics.
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How to support a talented child athlete

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If you're a parent or a coach and you do cross paths with a very talented athlete, I think the most important things is just because they have a talent doesn't mean that there aren't other issues out there. The biggest thing for top athletes especially when they've gone in very young and they had an early success, is that they begin to identify themselves not as John, the guy who plays soccer, skis and likes to do other things, but John the soccer player. When their identity is tied to a sport, what happens is that when they're not doing well in the sport or when they're done playing, they have nothing else in their lives. So many parents have relationships with their kids where 90% of their conversation is centered around sports. Now the sports is done, where is your relationship with your son? And so many athletes have been told, "Oh you're the greatest basketball player. Oh you're the greatest Soccer player", that when all of a sudden they're not, they really really struggle. One of the things pointing for me is when I asked Phil Jackson, "What is the overwhelming emotion of a professional Basketball player?" He said, "Its fear, fear that this is my last contract, fear that I'm not good enough to play on this team, fear that when this is over what am I going to do ". So as a coach or parent of a younger athlete, helping them become well rounded and helping them realize that your value is as a person, its not as an athlete, its not as someone who scores 20 points or who scores 3 goals. Your value is as a thinking, loving, caring person and any coach or any parent can start that throughout a kid's life so that if they happen to be really good, they have the type of personality and persona that will allow them to deal with the pressures and the stresses of being a pro rather than someone who crumbles when they have 2 or 3 bad games in a row.

John O'Sullivan, Founder of Changing The Game Project, shares advice on how to support a talented child athlete while still keeping them open and respectful about other sports and topics.

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John O'Sullivan

Founder of Changing The Game Project

John O’Sullivan founded the Changing the Game Project in 2012 in order to help parents, coaches and youth sports organizations create a more child-centered sports experience for our young athletes. John is a former collegiate and professional player, and worked for 20 years on the youth, high school and college level as a coach and club Technical Director. He holds a USSF A License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma, and a US Youth Soccer National License. His blog is now one of the most popular youth sports websites in the US, and he has been a featured presenter at TEDx Bend Oregon, IMG Academy, and this week at the NSCAA Convention. The Changing the Game Project provides live and online parent and coaching education workshops, webinars, and consulting services.

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