Managing Adversity for Youth Athletes: Building Resilience, Adaptability, and Perseverance. The Secret Sauce for Youth Athletes


As an athlete, it is inevitable that you will face adversity at some point in your playing career, in fact, there will be frequent challenges which is simply the nature of sports. As a parent, you must decide at what point you allow your child to manage those trials with on their own (but with your support). It is easy to want to get involved and protect your child(ren). As a parent myself, it is natural to think that you know what is best for your kids. Starting in the teen years, it is important for the player to take ownership and develop skills and experience to speak with teammates, trainers, coaches and administrators both at times of adversity and when times are good. As a youth athlete, developing healthy relationships and building communication skills and coping mechanisms is not only a requirement but a perfect developmental opportunity to prepare you for life.

This article will highlight the benefits of building these skills as well as provide some high-level, yet practical tips and strategies to deal with Adversity. An inevitable part of both life and sports, youth athletes are bound to encounter various challenges and setbacks throughout their athletic journeys. However, these experiences can also present valuable opportunities for growth and development. In this article, we will explore the benefits of managing adversity for youth athletes and provide guidance on effectively navigating these challenges.

Benefits of Managing Adversity:

  1. Resilience: Managing adversity contributes to the development of resilience. Adversity serves as a powerful teacher, enabling athletes to learn how to bounce back from setbacks and become mentally tougher. By effectively managing and overcoming challenges, athletes can enhance their resilience and be better equipped to handle future obstacles.
  2. Adaptability: Adversity helps youth athletes become more adaptable. When faced with unexpected challenges or changes, athletes learn to adjust their approach and discover new solutions. This fosters creativity, and resourcefulness, and equips them to handle the unpredictable nature of sports.
  3. Perseverance: Managing adversity fosters greater perseverance. When confronted with challenges or setbacks, athletes may be tempted to give up or lose motivation. However, by persevering through these difficulties, athletes develop mental toughness and find increased motivation to work towards their goals.

Navigating Adversity:

  1. Stay Positive: Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial in managing adversity. By focusing on the lessons learned and the opportunities for growth, athletes can stay motivated and focused even in the face of setbacks.
  2. Seek Support: Seeking support from coaches, teammates, or family members is an important strategy in managing adversity. It helps athletes feel less alone and more motivated to overcome challenges. Additionally, seeking support provides valuable insights and guidance on how to navigate difficult situations.
  3. Learn from Experience: Instead of simply moving on from challenging experiences, it is important to reflect on what was learned and how those lessons can be applied in the future. By learning from adversity, athletes can develop greater resilience, adaptability, and perseverance.

The strategies and approaches mentioned in the previous sections contribute to the development of important life skills for youth athletes. Let’s explore how each aspect helps in building these skills:

  1. Resilience: Managing and overcoming adversity fosters resilience, which is a crucial life skill. By facing challenges, setbacks, and failures in sports, athletes learn to bounce back, persevere, and maintain a positive attitude in the face of difficulties. This resilience can be transferred to various areas of life, helping individuals navigate personal and professional challenges.
  2. Adaptability: Adversity teaches athletes to adapt their approach and find new solutions. This skill is valuable not only in sports but also in everyday life, where unexpected situations and changes are common. Learning to adjust and be flexible in the face of challenges prepares individuals to handle different circumstances and problem-solve effectively.
  3. Perseverance: Overcoming challenges and setbacks requires perseverance. By staying motivated, pushing through obstacles, and continuing to work towards their goals, athletes develop mental toughness and the ability to persist in the face of adversity. This determination and perseverance can be applied to various aspects of life, helping individuals overcome obstacles and achieve long-term success.
  4. Communication and Assertiveness: Speaking directly to coaches and expressing concerns or conflicts helps youth athletes develop vital communication and assertiveness skills. It teaches them how to articulate their needs, opinions, and feelings in a respectful and assertive manner. These skills are essential for effective communication, building relationships, and advocating for oneself in various personal and professional settings.
  5. Conflict Resolution: Addressing issues with coaches directly promotes conflict resolution skills. By engaging in open and honest communication, athletes learn to navigate disagreements, find common ground, and work towards mutually beneficial solutions. These conflict-resolution skills are applicable in various contexts, such as interpersonal relationships, teamwork, and problem-solving situations.
  6. Independence and Autonomy: Encouraging youth athletes to address concerns with coaches fosters autonomy and self-advocacy skills. It helps athletes develop the ability to take responsibility for their own experiences, make independent decisions, and assert their needs. These skills empower individuals to navigate challenges, make choices aligned with their goals and values, and take ownership of their personal and professional lives.

By actively engaging in managing adversity, speaking directly to coaches, and implementing the strategies mentioned, youth athletes develop a range of life skills that extend beyond the realm of sports. These skills contribute to their personal growth, resilience, effective communication, problem-solving abilities, and overall success in various areas of life.

When faced with challenges, both caregivers and the athlete themselves should discuss what is going on, break it down and develop a plan that puts the athlete in the position to respond and manage that challenge. Stay tuned for the next article as we dig deeper into the “When, Why, and How” to speak with coaches, teachers, and adminsitrators.

Follow this blog and on social media, @coachrich8 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to learn critical life skills through youth sports.

Goal Tracking and Journaling

Now available from in 2 different covers.

Start to create really important life lessons while helping you(player) or your child(parents/coaches) reach their potential.  This is a Journal…

There are 3 sections:

Section 1 includes Goal Setting.  Establish Goals for yourself or for your team and chose the target date. i.e. Full Year, Fall Season, Winter Training, offseason, etc.

The goal includes 4 questions –

  1. What is the Goal?
  2. Why or Purpose?
  3. How will you achieve the goal?
  4. When is the Target Date?

battleplan goal setting

Section 2 is a Daily Journal.

Use the Daily Journal to capture your thoughts, plans, dreams or whatever you want.  Keeping track of how a training session went whether with your team or outside training.

Keep track of what you did, how you felt, what you ate, or even the weather.

This is your journal and your place to write your thoughts and feelings, track performance and manage and measure your goals.

These will be helpful for doing a self-assessment at different times of the year or you can keep them and look back in them in future years for inspiration and motivation.

Pro Tip -Journal Topics

  • Injury
  • School Conflicts
  • Social Conflicts
  • Highlight Moments

Food, Water, and Sleep

battleplan daily journal

Section 3 is Where you assess how you are progressing against your targets.

When you combine written goals and daily journaling, you now have what you need to assess your progress.

Establish Checkpoints where you can return and report on your progress.  If you have achieved your goals, you can set new goals or new targets that you want to hit.  If you are not progressing, you can do a course correction to modify the goals or modify the plan to get there.

Pro Tip – Ideas on Timing

  • Preseason
  • After Fall Season
  • Mid-Winter
  • Pre – Spring Season
  • Year-end
  • Off-Season Training

battleplan review

Two covers are available for purchase on amazon.

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Attention 1v1 Trainers – is your YouTube Video Flashy or Functional? Are you teaching players to dribble too much or are you teaching them to attack?

I have been a long time technical trainer of youth soccer players.  As a trainer, a skills instructor, and as a club director and coach, I have had the opportunity to work with close to 2000 boys and girls from the ages of 3 to 18.  I have developed an affinity to teach technical skills to younger players.  I leverage a lot of methods and techniques from a popular skills training program and host one of the areas largest camps every summer.  There are tons of systems and techniques out there that essentially focus on the same things for individual skill acquisition.  I am not advocating one system over another because I use a lot of content from a few different systems. Almost every system that gets results includes ball mastery and 1v1 moves. Ball Mastery is important to get the player comfortable on the ball with every surface of both feet. Moves are important to give a player more time and space to take a shot or find the next player in the progression to pass to.

There are no shortage of coaches that are offering technical training both in their local community and on-line.  Some of the videos that I see on Instagram and youtube lately are concerning because they are less and less relevant to the game.  Sure it looks impressive to see a player getting a gazillion touches in a tight space around cones, training dummies through ladders, etc.  What is it that you are teaching? I am seeing more and more players that can demonstrate the moves but they simply don’t know how to use them because they are not being instructed properly or in a way that translates to the game.

Lets talk about the use of equipment first.  Cones are good visual cues to establish markers for boundaries or distance, they are even good as a ladder or agility course but I see a lot of over use or cones being used for the wrong intent like as an actual defender.  Agility ladders are great tools for teaching fast feet, agility, balance and coordination and can be used effectively with a ball but it should be purposeful.  Re-bounders are nice because they can make up for not having a player available to return a pass.  On their own or in combination, they can be very effective but once again, I find myself seeing video after video and I just scratch my head.  Sure, for a parent or young player, it looks impressive to see a player rapidly progressing through a pattern, around a bunch of cones, through a ladder, off a re-bounder and the rip a shot top bin, but break that down and you can see why that is cringe-worthy. People that are teaching this way are reinforcing too much time on the ball in my opinion. 

Consider Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar.  Go back a bit further and consider Ronaldinho, Pele, Maradonna, Cyuff, and Matthews.  What do you notice about them?  They are all very smooth, they use incredible moves and then explode behind or past a player, they cover a large area in a short time.  Now go back and watch these 1 on 1 training videos.  I am not trying to compare the average player in one of these clips to one of the greats but what I want you to notice is how choppy, erratic and almost spastic some of these players look. I get that as a trainer, you may be trying to demonstrate speed but to me it just looks too forced and not natural. So look again at the most skillful players, how often after a move do these great players shoot or pass the ball? Now consider some of these promotion videos, touch after touch, a prescribed pattern with lots of touches, turns, maybe a pass against a wall, bench or re-bounder followed by a shot. Looks good on the video but it does not translate to a game.

Think about how many times you see young players with great foot-skills beat a player, not advance the ball, beat the same player again and then again. It happens everywhere, sure they have great skills but they end up dribbling in the same small area and typically don’t go very far. Also consider when the player is in the box, they take on one player, two players, etc until they eventually get smashed without ever taking a shot. The next thing you know those parents are paying you to work on their shot when it has zero to do with their technique and everything to do with their decision making. Coaches, you are actually conditioning these players to hold the ball for too long. They are memorizing patterns to get repetition and by doing so are failing to recognize when to shoot or pass.

Sure, ball mastery improves first touch and builds confidence on the ball, a ladder develops quick feet and a re-bounder is useful as a training partner when there is no one around but when you put them all together and sell it as an advanced program, you are conditioning the player to a pattern, to holding the ball for too long, to try to emulate speed of play with frantic movement and removing decision making from the equation.

Consider this instead: use ball mastery as a way for the player to get a lot of touches in a short period of time as a warm-up, conditioning or homework. Have the player explode into space after making a move and shoot or pass the ball. Use a re-bounder to work in repetition and passing technique. When you are working with the player on passing activities, work on their movement into space after the pass instead of near static repetition, let that be homework. Use equipment in the right way and incorporate it for a specific area like first touch by having to regain balance as the ball is coming to their feet.

Individual training can be both technical and functional but if your training activities make for a good youtube clip because of all of equipment that you can fit in a 4×4 grid, ask yourself how that applies to the game. Teach the individual skills so that they can do them on their own and create programs to use those skills to set up a pass or a shot and apply those skills to a game like situation not for an instagram ad.

Bring on the hate!!


Repost from the Speed Guy – the importance of a strong core in speed.

Bracing for Speed

5 July 2012 – by admin

We often speak or write about how the core should react when force is being created in order to can gain stability and strength. After many years of trying numerous techniques, in my opinion the core braces by contracting as if preparing to be punched in the stomach. I believe this because I have tried and tested many exercises, as well assessed what the core does naturally. It braces tightly.

Years ago I learned a technique which required the abdominals to be drawn in. I tried it. It took me many years to gain complete unconscious control of it. However, it didn’t work for me. Every time I performed a natural reactive movement my core simply braced tightly, without drawing in.

Some of the tests I have used when analyzing my core are:

  1. Medicine Ball Fake Throws in all directions (check out Medicine ball Training for Speed Video at
  2. Performing multiple landings on one and two feet.
  3. Punching my speed and punching bag.
  4. Performing push ups.
  5. Shuffling and changing directions.

With all of the above exercises, I would keep one hand on my core region. Every time my core reacted by bracing tightly and not sucking inward.

These findings, which happened to be many years ago, led me to indirect speed training exercises that helped my athletes to brace strongly and quickly. This bracing increased stability force in order to change direction quicker.

The medicine ball fake throws I use in all planes are fantastic at getting the athletes to unknowingly brace quicker and more forcefully. My girls basketball team have benefitted from these technique, especially with lateral movement.

The important object to note is when the core braces and creates great stability, the legs and feet do a better job of producing and receiving force from the ground (action reaction). My athletes’ feet, ankles, knees and hips are much more solid; therefore allow them to move quicker.

Try if for yourself. Bracing the core naturally can be improved by adding externally forces, such as in my Medicine Ball Training for Speed. They are safe, effective, and fun for athletes.

Repost from the Speed Guy – Lee Taft

I subscribe to a service that provides Speed and Agilty Workouts for Instructors.  Lee Taft is a great resource.


Quickness vs. Quick Reactions…posted on Sports Speed, Etc.

One of the roles of a coach is to develop the skills that are going to position his or her athletes the best. For example, sports like baseball, softball and football have athletes playing certain position that do not require tremendous quickness, however do require tremendous quick reactions.  What is the difference? Quickness is the ability to move in one direction and change directions with “Quickness” (body control, agility, balance…).  Quick reactions are the ability to instantaneously make a change in the current position and accelerate toward the play. This could be the reactions of the arms moving to catch a line drive or hit a curve ball. It could be a quick foot reaction of an offensive lineman to an inside move from a defensive end rushing the quarterback.

Athletic ability can be outlined globally or it can be specific.  Training a hockey goalie to be fast at skating and changing directions will help develop athleticism. However, teaching the goalie to have reactive hands and legs to defend the goal is specifically important to being a goalie.

A coach needs to know when to devote greater time to one or the other. It makes sense for professional athlete to spend most of their time on the specific skills needed to play the sport or position. If global foundational skills are not challenged, then there is a loss of athleticism and this can in turn hinder the specific nature of their sport.  If we are dealing with youth athletes, then the higher percentage needs to be global foundational quickness to develop overall athleticism. We would then move on to specific quickness when needed.

Love to hear you thoughts,

Yours in Speed, Lee

P.S. – Sports Speed Etc. has devoted two decades to teaching the proper way to improve quickness. Go to to grab information on training for quickness. Keep learning, keep growing and keep being great!