There are many changes that will take place during the career of every young softball player. When you start coaching young players, you know you are working with players who are going to be growing right in front of your eyes. The youngest kids are cute and eager but a major life event is on the horizon.
Puberty and how it will impact the players you’re coaching is something that every coach should develop a plan for and enough knowledge to be able to manage. We all know this is a time in every young person’s life when everything changes and having a little knowledge will make your life a whole lot easier.
Puberty in many ways creates a chain reaction where emotional and physical changes can force your kid to make major adjustments in their game. Here are a couple things that coaches, parents and players can all benefit from understanding.
1. Less coordination. Many children experience a growth spurt where they almost appear to outgrow their ability level. The gains made in height, strength and muscle mass will eventually become major assets but it takes time for the brain and body to get back on the same wavelength. There is a real learning curve where the brain has to get used to the new dimensions.
2. More injuries. This is a double-edged problem. They are likely to be more clumsy which leads to more opportunities for injury and their growth plates are extremely vulnerable during these growth spurts. Overuse injuries can be made much worse and in a shorter period of time.
3. More quitting. Puberty is like a minefield for athletes. Hormones are out of control and their interests and priorities can change. They also suffer from doubt. The physical changes they’re oing through may have drastically changed where they stack up in relation to their teammates and opponents. The kids who were the biggest and strongest might now be in the pack and the kids from the pack might emerge as top dogs. All this change is a lot at this age.
4. Premenstrual issues. We are all aware that the menstrual cycle is something that all female athletes work through, but for the young players going through it for the first time, the challenge is even more daunting. There can also be losses in aerobic capacity and strength, which can lead to difficulty with concentration and play on the field.
Of course all these challenges can be managed but more awareness, especially for male coaches, will go a long way in making your players more comfortable and confident. Patience, understanding and a long-range plan will help everyone get through the minefield with a happy ending.