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Top 12 Things Parents and Athletes Need to Understand About Talent and Athletic Development

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Original story can be found at HockeyNow.ca

1. DO NO HARM. Improvements in performance should NEVER be sought when there are significant risk factors for injury present. 

2. FUTURE SUCCESS IS BUILT ON A FOUNDATION. While certain factors like vertical jump and speed are of high importance, they cannot be properly improved without the appropriate foundation of correct movement patterns first.

3. LONG TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT. Development is about growth and progress. It is not about a quick fix for an upcoming tryout or tournament. If it takes two months to reteach a movement or skill that may seem long in the present, but is a small time commitment in a four, six, or eight-year development plan. In fact, some evidence suggests that sport expertise takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. 

4. SIGNS, SYMPTOMS and INJURIES. There are certain signs that precede symptoms when it comes to injury. These signs provide a great opportunity to address a dysfunction before it becomes painful. Just because your child doesn’t feel pain yet, it doesn’t mean there aren’t signs.

5. MOVEMENT AND SPORT DIVERSITY. Athletes that play multiple sports are less likely to suffer from overuse injuries common to each sport, and are most likely to better understand sports tactics. 

6. YOU CAN’T PREDICT THE FUTURE. Don’t try to forecast your child’s performance at a young age. When new skills are learned and movement is developed properly, an athlete’s performance can improve dramatically.

7. YOU MAY NOT KNOW BEST. Different athletic qualities develop at different rates. What you may feel is the most important for your child (e.g. speed, vertical jump, etc.) may not be the most appropriate element for their development at this time. Understand that there is a plan in place.  

8. No YoYo. For an athlete to develop to the elite levels, they need a consistent approach to athlete development. By taking off significant time each year, previous gains are lost, and too much time is spent getting back to where an athlete WAS.

9. Build a GROWTH MINDSET. The future success of any athlete can be predicted by the way they perceive their environment, experiences, and daily tasks. Seeing challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and improve is a characteristic of the growth mindset. Believing that skills and traits are inherent and have no ability to be developed is a fixed mindset characteristic that only serves to hold an athlete back.

10. Genetics cannot CREATE expertise. Expertise comes from playing and practicing in an environment that fosters learning.

11. Talent IS NOT innate. While genetics play a role in certain physical traits, there is no genetic component to the realization of talent. 

12. Early Specialization LIMITS development. Playing multiple sports gives athletes a variety of movement skills and a better appreciation of sport tactics.

Dr. Thomas Lam

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