When a new athlete comes into our program, we work with them to set a plan for their development goals.
Our expectation is that we'll be asked to help them develop physical skills - get faster, stronger, increase their vertical, and so on.
The funny thing is, those aren't always what our older athletes see as the biggest benefits they've received when they look back on their years of training.
We recently asked a handful of our long-time athletes to reflect on the benefits they've seen from committing to a training program over the long term.
Interestingly, they brought up a lot of things that aren't easily measured, or easy to see.
Here are a few.
Develop A Positive Relationship With Exercise
When we think of building healthy life-long habits in kids by getting them into exercise at an early age, we forget that just showing up is no guarantee it'll take root.
Remember, exercise is inherently painful and challenging no matter what your age.
As most of us adults can tell you, if you don't love to work out it can get really easy to talk yourself into thinking you don't need it, staying on the couch and waiting until the next January 1 shows up on our calendar.
So you need to not just get kids training at an early age, but you need to make it something they look forward to.
Of course you still want to work hard, but you need an uplifting atmosphere that provides some positive energy to work through the pain. You also need to make it easy to understand, so they don't feel like a failure.
It's the experience and how it makes them feel that will determine whether a workout program is going to lead to a more active future as an adult.
Train To Unlock Your Athleticism
One of our college athletes recently told us, "I've seen so many kids at the college level who can move tons of weight but can't turn it into athletic performance. You need a total approach to training as an athlete to be successful at this level."
Too often workout programs boil down to just how much you can bench press, or squat, or deadlift.
Or worse, how muscular you are.
Certainly these will help athletes in strength-based sports to perform better, but there are so many other areas you should be equally concerned with improving when training for athletics.
Do you move well, or has your training made you stiff and rigid?
If so, your risk of injury is much higher.
Are you fast enough for your sport and position?
Faster players stand out.
Can you translate that weight room strength to your sport?
That means you must be able to express your strength at high velocities when jumping, kicking, throwing, shooting, cutting, and more.
A lot of what determines success at the highest levels of sport comes from developing the skills you can't see when looking at someone on the street.
These skills only stand out when they play.
Learn To Set & Achieve Personal Goals
Success in team sports is, in many ways, outside of an individual's control.
Coaches determine team priorities and playing time. Opponent quality and referees affect win-loss records.
It is only when training alone, whether developing a sport skill or in performance training, that the battle becomes personal.
This is where you can push your limits and really see the greatness that lies within you.
As another of our college athletes told us, performance training gives you "A place to work on yourself, push yourself and get what you want out of it."
Training is supposed to be an endless battle of seeking small improvements in all that you do.
Developing the mindset that "I can always be a little better if I focus on the task at hand, and work hard" is an empowering mindset.
Feeling in control of your own destiny is crucial to long-term success in anything, because without it you'll never stick to something long enough, or work hard enough, to achieve a whole lot.
Certainly every parent wishes their kids thought the way one of our college athletes framed what they got out of training:
"Training taught me to be confident in my play and my physical abilities, as well as to not be afraid both on and off the field"
Giving them the old 'Good job!' after successes, or 'It's OK' when they struggle is nice, but it'll never really move the needle when it comes to self-confidence.
The only way you'll ever really build it is to take on challenges that seem like more than you can handle, but you overcome it anyway.
This puts you in control. It shows you that even when things seem too difficult, you can achieve success anyways.
One small success leads to the next, and the next, creating an upward spiral of confidence building.
Workout programs are almost perfect breeding grounds for building confidence simply because you are constantly taking on new challenges.
And the beauty is that, because your body adapts to training, more often than not you'll consistently succeed when trying things you couldn't do before.
We judge ourselves as coaches by the success of our players.
Championships, scholarships, and all the visible improvements we see them achieve in both training and sport.
But too often we forget that it's the things we can't see, which lead to positive changes in them forever, that are most important.