Early adolescence (~8-13)
Make sure planning for success is part of your strategy as athletes at this age are keen to win! Praising positives has more of an impact on learning than criticism (catch them doing it well). However, they will need help developing coping strategies and taking perspective. For example, help athletes combat black and white thinking (i.e. success vs. failure) by helping them see what they do well, alongside clear feedback on areas of improvement and help them take perspective by seeing being successful isn’t just about winning the match, but about trying new things, learning from failure, and sharing that journey with others.
Peers become more important during adolescence and therefore, social events are essential at this stage of development as athletes are keen to build relationships. Encourage social interaction between athletes and build in social activities to help them bond (i.e. team building activities). Athletes will also feel more self-conscious at this age and feel ‘under the spotlight’ both on and off the court, so try to keep things informal sometimes and minimise how much judgement or scrutiny is coming their way.
Two-way, open communication is integral at this stage of development. Athletes are starting to form their own view but will still need guidance to think through complex problems and situations, therefore, it can help to start including them in some of the decision making. Asking the athlete questions can support them in the development of their own ideas and opinions.
During the early stages of development (childhood and early adolescence), the athlete’s nervous system is developing rapidly and is primed to learn new skills and movement patterns (i.e. catching, passing, running, and jumping etc.). Individuals will benefit greatly from sprinting, changing direction and other activities that develop their explosive abilities. Races, chase, and evasion games are great examples that can be integrated within warmups on court. As athletes enter puberty (typically between the age of 11 and 13 in girls), increased growth and sex hormones causes several physical changes to occur. Rapid increases in height (the adolescent growth spurt) are trailed by increases in weight and the onset of periods. These changes can be a source of stress for some and being sensitive to this is important. Some athletes may feel self-conscious or embarrassed, which can also be heightened by the individual timing and rate of development between them and their peers. Coaches can help to normalise conversations surrounding female athlete health and offer support to those with concerns. It is common for teenagers to experience more severe menstrual cycle symptoms as their bodies get used to experiencing a new flux of hormones across the cycle.
How might you modify your training practices to emphasise success over failure?
Can you identify any scenarios in which a player may feel ‘under the spotlight’ or particularly self-conscious?
How could you promote and normalise conversations surrounding female athlete health in your environment?