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The Teenage Athlete - Cameron Molloy

"We loved watching you play. … Now, how about that homework?"

Athletes are odd, aren’t they? We often look upon athletes in the limelight with a degree of wonder and curiosity. And an even bigger puzzle? Yep, you guessed it. Teenagers. So if you’re the parent of a teenage athlete. It’s ok, I get it. Life can be bonkers.

I’m an Executive Leadership and Wellness coach. I work 9-5 with adults on building positive cultures in the workplace. And afterwards, I work 5-9 as a Football Coach, building positive cultures in a team. I’ve been a teenage athlete, I coach teenage athletes, I coach the parents of teenage athletes, and I’m a parent myself. And below are 3 tips for parents that are just looking to help!

1.The Coach Approach

Elite coaches will break an athlete down into 4 elements. And let’s take football for example:

Physical - Can their body facilitate what they want to do? Get around the pitch fast enough, strike the ball hard enough, etc.

Mental - Can their mind facilitate what they want to do? Are they focused and clear at the right times, are they dealing with pressure in the right manner?

Tactical - Have they got enough knowledge of their job out there and how the game is played? Knowledge of a system, reading an opposing player’s intentions, etc.

Technical - Can their individual skills facilitate what they want to do? Place the ball in a correct position, at the right time with the right pace, etc.

So the parent’s job here is really just to facilitate the improvement in the areas that you can.

Let’s take the same approach but with the Parent’s perspective:

Physical - Are they eating the right food? And having the correct amount of sleep?

Mental - Do we communicate enough? Are they actually enjoying it out there? Am I adding to their pressure in any way?

Tactical - Unfortunately, parent’s, we gotta trust the coaches here.

Technical - This one too. The coaches, and the kid’s genuine interest in playing the game outside.

2.A Happy Teenager

Legend has it that there is actually such a thing….

I often ask myself if I’d like my little guy to have a successful life or a happy life - ideally both, but which do I prioritise?

Do we add to the pressure of performance for our teenager? What’s the car ride home like? Chances are, if your kid has done something wrong in a performance, they know. The opponents have let them know. So has their mates. And their coaches. Sharing the highs and lows with family is what sport is all about, but it’s important to ask, ‘Is the timing of discussion productive?’

I worked with the Pre-Teen Academy Director at Liverpool last year. And, being a school teacher previously, he told me straight out that elite football academies are not a place for a child’s positive mental health.

Being part of a club was the best thing about being a teenager for me. Friends, friends’ families, coaches and trips abroad. Winning and losing together.

Some of the best memories of my life. I still believe that this is the priority of being part of a club. Everything else is a plus!

3. The Example

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” - James Baldwin

If your kid wants to be Diarmuid Connolly, this might be a bit tricky. Mine wants to be Mo Salah. I struggle to find how I’ll imitate that talent.

Although the idea here is lifestyle. If we want our kids to play fair, eat the right food, not give into heated emotion, treat their coaches with respect and all the rest of it, we have to know that they’re imitating us in so many of these scenarios.

The sports stuff can be left to the coaches. I feel all we actually have control over is the person. And the player is a reflection of that person!

Sport is so wonderful at bringing people together. And some of the best times a family can have can be through a sporting experience. The sooner it’s safe to go back the better!


"I was very lucky that I had wonderful parents and still have, they have been unbelievably supportive" - Roger Federer.

About The Author - Cameron Molloy.

FitVision is a Corporate Wellbeing and Executive Leadership Provider based in Dublin, Ireland. We aim to put people in the best position to take control of their health, so they can succeed at anything. Using his expertise and professionalism in the areas of nutrition, training, recovery and mindset, Cameron's goal is to impact the efficiency, happiness and resilience of the workforce in every company he works with.


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