Many young people are beginning to push the boundaries of their chosen pursuit to an elite or professional level from their early teens. It is not uncommon to begin representing your country whilst still in high school, or begin professional or semi-professional careers in the performing arts industry.
There are many challenges associated with being a young athlete or performer and it is important to look after yourself and your future. Here are some tips which may help keep things on the up and up.
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Although you might feel like you should do nothing but train or practice it actually won’t do you any favours in terms of your performance. At the Australian Institute of Sport, the program originally saw athletes focus on nothing but their sport, but they found that the performances went downhill badly!! Why? If you have all your eggs in one basket it’s much harder to take risks and really push yourself to the limits of your performance. You are great at what you do, but you are much more than just your athletic talent or creative ability. Remember to develop yourself as a whole person and keep your studies, job, social life and family relationships as normal as possible.
2. Use setbacks as opportunities for learning
There is no doubt that reaching the elite or professional level as a teenager means that you have a lot of talent! Lots of younger athletes and performers have found themselves moving quite smoothly up the ranks of their pursuit however major snags can occur once you reach the bigger pool of other international and/or professional competitors. You can make every experience count, even if your performance was dismal! Take note of your strengths and identify your weaknesses, then set about learning from your mistakes. Work with your coaches, teachers, agents or psychologist to target difficulties and fast track your progress to becoming a seasoned competitor so that your talent and hard work can pay off when it counts!
3. Don’t buy into the hype!
Many talented young athletes and performers fail to reach their potential, or quickly spark then burn out when they get stuck in the “lifestyle” associated with international success and a public profile. Athletes and performers who achieve long-term success usually stay well grounded, keeping everything in perspective. Work with your coaches, teachers, agents, psychologist or media trainer to feel confident and in control in the public arena.
4. Look after yourself
You dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to train and practice to achieve success and reach your potential, however like everyone else, you can become ill or injured. When you are unwell or injured make sure your decisions are keeping your long-term future in mind as well as your present needs. Always consult with medical professionals when making decisions about coming back from illness or injury.
The content of this fact-sheet is part of the Power Up! workshop by Quirky Kid. We provide psychological services to a range of young elite athletes and performer.
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Gould D, Dieffenbach K (2003). Psychological issues in youth sports: competitive anxiety, overtraining, and burnout. In: Malina RM, Clark MA (eds). Youth Sports: Perspectives for a New Century. Coaches Choice, Monterey, CA, pp 149–70.