Inspiring young athletes

I love the Saturday morning walk into our training ground in Istanbul. There are two reasons for this: (1) there is a cheeky back gate into the facility that gets opened and cuts a good 10 minutes off my journey; and (2) I get to wander past all the junior matches taking place on the various pitches we have, ranging from our under 6s up to our Academy team. The kids’ games are just like any other taking place around the globe, with a combination of supportive and vociferous parents and coaches willing on their little ‘uns.
It’s great to work in adult elite sport, but it’s watching the kids run around and have fun - whether it be football, netball, gymnastics or little athletics - that, to my mind, really demonstrates the true role that sport plays in life.
I believe that much of life’s great skills have the capacity to be taught through sport; teamwork, hard work, respect, humility, fair play and sportsmanship. Now, I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but I know that each of these values were instilled in me by all of my coaches when I was playing junior footy, cricket, judo etc. when I was young. These lessons are directly transferrable to the workplace and into one’s personal life.
I think the best coaches at a junior level are the ones that use sport as a medium for teaching all of these values. Of course, we love to win but the victory occurs as a result of dedication and training, of teamwork and perseverance.

"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
John Wooden
It’s no secret that to get to the top of world sport requires incredibly hard work, persistance and dedication. I bet if we interviewed 100 of the world’s top sports men and women, they will be able to identify a coach that they had when they were a youngster that fostered these behaviours. The best coaches play a role in character development, like a parent.
Indeed, when we consider the best elite coaches across sports - from Wayne Bennett in Australia, to Sir Alex Ferguson in the UK and John Wooden in the USA - they are often described as father figures, and devotion to them from their players borders on fanatical. It’s little surprise that they are some of the most successful coaches the world have ever known.
In fact, when you’ve finished reading this, go online and check out some more of John Wooden’s quotes. Each of these are lessons that coaches can give to young athletes that have the ability to mould them as people, something that is much more noble and important than winning the regional under 11 shield.
Next week but one, I’ll dip into training youngsters again but will be less philosophical and more practical, and will look at the question of whether it’s ever too early to begin weight training with a child.
'Til then,
Stay robust, amigos!

David Joyce
Injury and Performance Consultant at Galatasaray FC. Holds a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy and a Masters in Strength and Conditioning. He also lectures on the MSc in Sports Physio course at the University of Bath.