An Open Letter to Youth Athletes

Kids should be kids.

This article originally appeared on EricaSuter.com

Dear Youth Athlete,

You're not a soccer player.

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This article originally appeared on EricaSuter.com

Dear Youth Athlete,

You're not a soccer player.

You're not a basketball player.

You're not a volleyball player.

You're not a hockey player.

You're a kid.

In fact, you're a kid with a multitude of hobbies, aspirations and talents. Yes, you might be good at one sport over the other, but don't let the system pigeonhole you into choosing at age 7.

None of us can predict where you will be at age 20, so tap into all corners of your brain and potential.

Write music.

Play every sport.

Move.

Paint.

Create.

Be. A. Kid.

You're more than an expectation, more than a label, more than a number on the field.

Don't focus on one thing. Instead, be a multi-dimensional human being who deserves to share your plethora of talents to the world.

Your gems lie buried deep within you. And man, are there hundreds.

If there's anything you get from this letter, it's this: you have the opportunity to create magic with your gems in multiple ways. Not just one sport. Not just one pursuit. Not just one hobby.

Don't be defined by one thing.

Be defined by your layered essence, all facets of your personality, all pieces that mash together to make you more human. Oh, and have fun.

Remember, you're young.

You're a kid.

Perhaps you're 7 years old.

Perhaps you're 10 years old.

Perhaps you're 12 years old.

Whatever age, you shouldn't be coming home crying after practice.

Your team coach shouldn't be calling you "weak."

You should be coming home happy, elated and ready for more.

Sports should be enjoyable, fulfilling and motivating.

You're a kid.

And if you feel you're the slowest on your team now, just wait, young one, you will blossom into a flying gazelle when you're older.

But listen to this first: don't let your parents rush your development. And as much as they say you need a speed trainer to run you through technical drills, you don't.

Just get outside, play, sprint and have fun with your friends. And be patient with the human body. I promise you, your development will flourish.

And if you feel you've missed shots on goal, just wait, young one, you will nail your accuracy one day.

But listen to this first: don't let your parents scold you for missing the net. You're 7 years old.

And actually…

I urge you to make mistakes. To miss more shots.

You know why? The more mistakes you make, the more you'll be able to problem solve and navigate down the road.

Why?

Because your itty, bitty brain is smarter than we adults think.

Your nervous system is more clever than ours.

You're an intelligent kid.

And a human who will figure it all out.

Don't let your parents scrutinize your every move of development like a scripted, running commentary.

I mean come on…would you want your parents telling you how to play tag with the neighbors? Would you want your parents telling you how to strategize a game of Hide N' Seek?

Same goes for sports…enjoy them like you would a carefree, neighborhood game.

You're a kid.

And a human.

Just because you're on the 5th travel team in your age group, doesn't mean you won't get a college scholarship.

Just because you have a cool Instagram and tag famous sports accounts, doesn't mean you're going to go professional.

Just because you're the best at age 7, doesn't mean you're going to be on the national team.

Youth athlete, human development is complicated.

But you know what's simple? Your enjoyment and love of being a kid.

That's your only job.

Not year-round soccer.

Not year-round hockey.

Not year-round baseball.

And as much as the system pushes you to rush development and make your sport your full-time job, don't fall under those traps.

You're a kid.

Development takes time.

And your sport is not your job.

Rather, your job is to have fun.

It's to come home drenched in sweat, with a big smile on your face that oozes joy.

That's it.

Photo Credit: FatCamera/iStock

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Topics: YOUTH SPORTS