Youth sports in America is a 15 billion dollar industry. A lot of that money is going towards special coaching and training and participation in elite travel teams. Parents spend an enormous amount of money and time on their kids’ involvement in sports, hoping the investment will pay off in accolades, college scholarships, and even the chance to play professionally. But my guests today argue that all that special coaching you’re spending money on probably isn’t doing much to turn your kid into an superstar.
Their names are Leonard Zaichkowsky and Daniel Peterson, and they’ve co-written a new book called The Playmaker’s Advantage. Leonard is one of the pioneers in the field of sports psychology and was a professor of it at Boston University for 37 years. Over the decades, he’s consulted for professional and collegiate sports programs as well as Olympic teams. Daniel Peterson is a science writer who has spent his career looking at the intersection of neuroscience and athletic performance, and is co-founder and director of 80 Percent Mental Consulting.
Today on the show, Len and and Daniel discuss whether you can spot athletic talent in a child and why a kid who looks talented at age 10 can end up being a dud athlete at 20. They explain why you shouldn’t regiment your child’s athletic training or specialize kids too early in sports. Along the way, they provide best practices for parents and coaches who work with children in sports. We then discuss how sports can boost children’s cognitive abilities and why an athlete’s mental game can be just as important as their speed and strength. We end our conversation talking about what kind of practice is nearly useless, and what kind is the most helpful.
- The state of sports psychology back in the ’60s and ’70s
- How much athletic talent comes from one’s inherited genes?
- Can playmakers be spotted at really young ages? Do early sports camps help?
- Does specialization help or hurt young athletes?
- The difference between regimented practices and free play
- Tips for youth sports coaches
- The working memory of kids, and how it’s different from adults
- How to gently critique your kids and help them improve their skills
- The “Parking Lot” rule
- How discipline and personal development in sports carries over into other areas
- Can youth performance indicate if someone will someday “make it” to the big leagues?
- The importance of practice, and why more practice isn’t necessarily better
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- My interview with David Epstein about the sports gene
- The Power of Team Captains
- Why Every Young Man Should Play a Team Sport
- 6 Tips for Successfully Coaching a Youth Sports Team
- 10 Best Multi-Sport Athletes of All-Time
- Why Football Matters
- When Can Kids Start Lifting Weights?
- How to Instill a Love of Fitness in Your Kids
- My interview with Anders Ericsson on reaching your peak
- The Secret of Great Men: Deliberate Practice
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Connect With Len and Daniel
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