Focusing in on developing our young athletes


by Dale Trenholm

February 4, 2014 (ISN) – Development in sport and life is the keystone of excellence with athletes of any age. From novices to professional athletes, developing and refining both sport and life is a lifelong endeavor.

Sport and life must be balanced to lead a healthy lifestyle with mind, body and spirit – in addition to aspiring to be the best. How often do we hear of pro athletes, and even up-and-coming athletes who get themselves into trouble in life or are not good role models and mentors for our young athletes? This is not what sport is about or who our young athletes should be looking up to.

“Every athlete is different; as a coach, I push every athlete’s limits to be the best they can be. Only great things will come from doing one’s best.” – Dale Trenholm

With my experience coaching athletes, over the past 15 years, who seek goals ranging from achieving personal bests to being the best in Canada or the best in the world, helping them be healthy and upstanding citizens, no matter what their aspiration are, was/is very important to me. I realize being the best isn’t, or can’t be, on every athlete’s plate, but for some it is, as I currently have an athlete who wants to be a World Champion. I will certainly accommodate and help him accomplish this feat. From every experience, and every lesson, athletes will grow, even if their sport doesn’t carry them into college or a professional sports career. At the very least, they will have learned something that will help them with their future lifelong endeavors.

As a coach I am a realist and an idealist, and it is very important to keep these two in balance to be an effective coach for the development and success of the athletes I coach. I can be real and see that an athlete will not go far, and then I will see an athlete that has big dreams and has the potential to go far. Both are great, because this is what these athletes want to do, and I will help them improve upon the point they are at with their life and sport.

However, this doesn’t mean I won’t coach them or expect any of them to put in less than a 100% effort. I always encourage and expect whom I coach to strive for personal excellence in practice and competition by doing, and being, the best they can each day. Roadblocks, and overcoming fears, are natural, and I show them that they can choose how they want to overcome disappointment and tough lessons. Growth comes from stepping outside our comfort zone, and, as a coach, I feel it is my job to help them feel more comfortable there than if they were trying to handle it by themselves.

A Grandparent asked me last summer, after his grandson lost a gold medal by a foot at a National Championship earlier that day, what my thoughts were. The loss was very disappointing for all concerned, too. In a nutshell, I said we have two choices: we can be mad, stressed, and think it is the end of the world, or we can learn from the lessons, gain valuable feedback, affirm the proper thoughts, and move on because that is the past, which of course is history. In addition, I needed to get him focused for the next day. That same athlete went on to win a gold medal in his next race.

To sum up my advice to coaches, parents, and friends, if you think of development, disappointments, lessons, and successes as feedback for us to take the appropriate, positive course of action for the future successes of our young athletes, the results with their sport and life will follow. For example: If she/he is nine years old, then keeping it fun and positive, while patiently developing the physical and mental skills over the coming years, is very important.

We need to be more of a realist than an idealist with our young athletes and work on the weaknesses very patiently so our young athletes don’t lose the fun that sports have to offer. If we focus all our energy on winning, then development will be missed, which is critical to win in life and sport no matter what level he/she aspires to achieve.