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Developing Elite Athletes

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Developing a strong sense of character and work ethic are attributes, we can begin to foster far before the athletic journey begins.


Developing elite athletes requires discipline, dedication, and consistent work. The right friends, coaches, and mentors can provide valuable support, guidance, and motivation.

Parents play an important role in their athlete’s development. Your support, guidance, and resources play a key part in their overall confidence throughout their journey. In this article, we will cover the various areas of focus, consideration, and advice to take an athlete to the elite level.


The 4 Be’s to Developing Your Child into Becoming an Elite Athlete
  1. Be Supportive: Boosting self-esteem is critical. Young athletes need a support system that is available throughout their journey. Boosting confidence early in your child’s life leads to creating mentally and emotionally equipped athletes, students, and members of their community.

  2. Be Willing to Make the Time Commitment: Developing your child into an elite athlete requires consistent dedication and time commitment. Coordinating schedules, training, and practice while managing other obligations is a necessity.

  3. Be Steadfast in Balancing Priorities: While athletic achievement is important, help them understand the importance of balance and prioritizing athletic goals with other priorities such as academics, social life, and overall health and well-being.

  4. Be Prepared to Provide Financial Resources: Elite training and competition can be expensive, often including funding coaching, equipment, travel, and competition fees. Set realistic expectations when it comes to the ability to cover these expenses. Get creative and adjust along the way to ensure your athlete is getting the most out of activities without breaking the bank.

You Are the Company You Keep or Rather Your Athlete Is.

The phrase "You are the company you keep" means that the people you surround yourself with reflect who you are as a person. It suggests that the people we associate with have a significant impact on our behavior, beliefs, and attitudes. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of the company we keep and choose our friends, coaches, and mentors wisely.


This is critical as we develop elite athletes because the people they surround themselves with have a significant impact on their development and success. Developing elite athletes requires discipline, dedication, and consistent work. The right friends, coaches, and mentors can provide valuable support, guidance, and motivation. Mentors and coaches can provide tailored feedback that enhances their skills and techniques, and their peers can challenge and motivate them to push beyond their limits.


By building supportive relationships with the right support system, your athletes can elevate their game and work towards their goals on and off the field.


Be Present: Emotional IQ

Being present in the moment with the correct emotional IQ during an athlete’s developmental phase is vital. Elite Athletes tend to possess an extreme amount of passion. It fuels their desire to win every game and always be the best. Dealing with that passion when things don’t necessarily go their way can sometimes be overwhelming for you and your athlete. But they will need your motivation and guidance to accept failures as learning opportunities for life. Encouraging them to remain positive irrespective of the circumstances is an important part of boosting confidence and developing a growth mindset.


Emotionally connect with them by listening and acknowledging their feelings, then offering positive perspectives prepares them through building the coping skills needed to face issues that may come their way.


Fuel Your Athlete with the Right Foods

An athlete needs proper nutritional support to fuel their mind and body, promoting optimal physical and mental development. Always remember, no matter how hard you let your child train and practice, they will never perform at full potential without proper nutritional support.


4 Simple Ways To Promote Healthy Eating In Athletes:

  • Educate: Educate athletes on the importance of healthy eating and explain how food choices fuel their performance by providing energy, nutrients, and promotes faster recovery.

  • Provide healthy food choices: Make healthy foods available and convenient at home, training, competitions, and other events. Things like fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains are some general principles to start with.

  • Encourage meal planning: Encourage athletes to plan, prep and pack their meals in advance to avoid relying on fast food, vending machines, or convenience stores.

  • Promote hydration: Encourage athletes to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after exercise. Avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages.

Find a Good Coach

A coach can play a critical role in your athlete's development and ultimate success. The right coach will provide guidance, motivation, and feedback that can help them improve. They will also understand your athlete's individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and adapt their training accordingly. This can help them achieve faster results and avoid injury.


Also, a good coach will serve as a mentor and role model, helping your athlete develop important life skills such as discipline, resilience, and teamwork.


School Comes First

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the United States governing body for collegiate sports. The NCAA sets the academic eligibility requirements to compete in Division I sports. Student-athletes must meet these academic requirements in addition to any athletic criteria set by coaches. This includes achieving a minimum GPA in a core set of high school courses and achieving a minimum score on either the SAT or ACT college entrance exams. Having a high GPA may increase a student-athletes chances of admittance into their desired college or university as well as qualify them for financial assistance through scholarships, grants, etc.


Many parents do not know this but Division I scholarships are full-ride scholarships and each school is limited as to the number of scholarships they can offer. Spend the time to ensure your athlete is in the best position possible it could literally save you thousands.


Don’t Be the Helicopter Parent

The last but most crucial part of developing an elite athlete is to ensure the adults in their lives never become an embarrassment. Being overprotective, overly involved or interfering with coaches can become a source of awkwardness for your athlete.


Be supportive by encouraging them during athletic activities. Here are key behaviors to avoid:

  • Arguing with coaches over positions or playing time: Encourage your athlete to talk to coaches/trainers first – teach them to advocate for themselves while focusing on improvement. Only approach the coach after your child has attempted to resolve issues themselves and then do so respectfully with your child’s goals in mind.

  • Arguing with parents over a child or teammate's issues or disagreements: Encourage your athlete to resolve disagreements with their peers and teammates. Talk to parents about bringing the children together to foster the resolution and avoid placing blame or pointing fingers. Act as the mediator and not the agitator.

  • Participating in conflicts or heckling opposing teams: Remind yourself there is enough pressure on the players participating and that they don’t need an adult adding to that pressure or creating embarrassment. Spend your time and energy encouraging your team and child.

  • Interfering with the referees, coaches or other field staff: Avoid addressing coaches, referees and field staff during the game. If there is something you just cannot hold in, remember to remain respectful and to do so at the appropriate time so as not to disrupt or negatively impact the game.

Support your athletes development by honoring the work they put into achieving the outcome more than the actual outcome.
Advise from Parent to Parent

Parenting is a skill - it's a myth and a misconception that everything instantly becomes known when you become a parent. Persistence, patience, and calmness come with time and are acquired skills when raising children. Raising a child athlete adds another layer to parenting especially when you mix in the term ‘Elite’.


Developing a strong sense of character and work ethic are attributes, we can begin to foster far before the athletic journey begins. Support your child's development by honoring the work they put into achieving the outcome more than the actual outcome. The goal is to foster a growth mindset, which is the belief that a person’s abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work, dedication, and perseverance.


Your athlete may not have the skills to express themselves properly in every situation and the pressure of trying to reach their goals can cause them to react negatively at times. In these moments teach them that their words are important, and seek to understand their needs while reminding them they need to remain respectful. Then calmly offer advice for their concerns. When frustration levels rise, remain composed and handle the issue.


Most importantly, remember and remind them that you are their biggest fan, whether on or off the field.


Advice from Coach to Athlete

Why? This question should be the first question an athlete answers before and after every practice, training and game and interaction with athletes, parents, and other coaches. Being an “Elite Athlete” is a tremendous title to tackle, so athletes need to be honest and clear with themselves first as to their intentions to remain focused, fulfilled, healthy and committed.


The Elite Athlete’s Playbook:

  • Be consistent in your training and practice: Regular and focused training is essential for developing sport-specific technical and tactical skills, as well as physical fitness and mental preparation.

  • Eat the right foods and stay hydrated: A balanced diet and adequate hydration are critical for maintaining energy levels to support optimal performance, and preventing injuries and/or illnesses.

  • Get quality coaching: Expert coaches who can provide constructive feedback and individualized training plans that when followed can help athletes improve their skills and reach their full potential.

  • Mentally condition your mind and mindset: You must develop mental toughness, self-confidence, and a positive attitude to manage pressure, setbacks, and challenges.

  • Focus on Injury prevention and strengthening: Take steps to prevent injuries such as daily stretching, practicing good technique and conditioning. This is crucial for maintaining longevity in the sport and in life. Proper injury management and rehabilitation are also important for a full recovery and returning to play at a high level.

  • Set SMART Goals and Achieve them: Establishing Specific, Measurable, and Achievable Targets (Actually the ‘T’ in SMART goals stands for ‘Time Bound”) can help you stay motivated and focused on your desired outcomes.

  • Get exposure to high-level competition: Having opportunities to compete against top-level competition wil help you develop your skills, gain experience, and build confidence.

  • Whether you are a parent or Athlete, when you can honestly say are doing these 7 things well you are on your way to raising or becoming an Elite Athlete.

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