Ignore the Noise–The Early Years
Come Ready Or Never Start
Noise for the Beginning Athlete
The dictionary defines it as, “a nonharmonious or discordant group of sounds.”
Our friends at Wikipedia add, “ In common use, the word noise means unwanted sound or noise pollution.”
Noise is everywhere in youth sports—coaches barking instructions; teammates encouraging; opponents discouraging; parents encouraging (and discouraging); and fans cheering.
In my Come Ready Or Never Start mentality system, I define noise as any negative feedback or negative chatter that discourages youngsters to strive to get better, reach their potential and achieve their goals—no matter how realistic or unrealistic these goals may be.
And I’m sorry to say that in youth sports today, the noise seems to be in SurroundSound®, there’s so much of it. It comes from immediate family, relatives, friends, teachers and coaches. It’s most basic form: “You can’t do that.”
Parents can create Noise when they don’t even know it.
Child: “I want to be a professional tennis player when I grow up.”
Parent: “Don’t be silly, only a few kids out of thousands will be good enough to play professionally.” (Imagine if Roger Federer’s father told him that.)
Child: “I’d like to grow up to be a doctor.”
Parent: “You gotta be really, really smart to be a doctor and besides, we’ll never have enough money to send you to medical school.”
Ignoring the Noise is an action in the Come Ready Or Never Start philosophy that young athletes learn to do in order to better focus on getting better and reaching their athletic goals.
As kids begin in sports participation at these young ages their emotional development and maturity levels have not reached the stage where they can be taught how to ignore the noise. That’s why parents have to take the lead and be proactive in minimizing the noise and maximizing the positive and encouraging chatter. In addition, they need to start reinforcing the Come Ready Or Never Start mentality that speaks to goals and dreams:
- “You can grow up to be anything you want to be.”
- “You can do anything you want to do in life.”
- “Don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do something.”
These are life philosophies but the Come Ready Or Never Start mindset extends them to youngsters just beginning to enjoy organized sports. Many youngsters begin playing soccer, baseball, softball, basketball etc. recreationally and discover they very much enjoy the activity. As they progress they may begin to form goals– both realistic and unrealistic—that may go beyond the foremost goal of just having fun:
- “I’d like to start.”
- “I’d like to make the travel team.”
- “I’d like to grow up and play in the World Cup.”
In each case there is the potential of the parent to create noise—negative or discouraging feedback:
- “Don’t worry if you’re not good enough to start, you’ll get your playing time.”
- “The travel team is just for the really, really good players.”
- “You’re not even the best player on your team.”
Coming from the people who they trust the most, this noise is too hard for youngsters to ignore at this age. So it is up to the parents to eliminate the noise in the first place and be positive and encouraging:
- “That’s great you’d like to start, let’s ask the coach what you need to work on.”
- “Sure, it would be a good experience for you to try out for the travel team and see how good you are compared to the other players.”
- “You have to remember that these players work really, really hard, so if you’re prepared to do that, maybe you’ll play on the World Cup team someday.”
Staying positive and not creating noise should be your goal as a parent no matter what the skill level. If you’ve been involved in youth sports you’ve seen the disparity in athletic talent starting out—the naturally athletic kids and the kids who don’t have that natural ability. Sometimes it’s those athletic kids who hear the most noise from their parents or coaches, because the expectations are higher. Instead of positive words of encouragement for a job well done, they hear the noise of a parent questioning why they didn’t do better. For the youngsters who may be clumsy or not as skilled, instead of positive words of how they can work on improving, they may hear the noise of a parent saying maybe they’re just not good enough to enjoy the sport.
The chances of your child growing up to be a professional athlete…or an astronaut, may be slim. But if you’re causing noise by telling them they can’t do it, you’re telling them that certain things in life are unattainable.
That’s negative. That’s noise.
And I don’t believe it.
It’s all about nurturing their belief in their potential. Explaining that they have a lot of time ahead in their lives to reach their athletic goals. And even if their skill level at this young age is not advanced, that many successful athletes started exactly the same way—slowly– but worked hard to reach their goals.