Early and Late Bloomers in Youth Sports: Lessons for Parents (2024)

Some children are early bloomers who enjoy success in sports because they develop faster, not because they have more raw athletic talent. Some children - even if they appear to only be average athletes or lag behind his peers - may be late bloomers whose athletic talent will only become apparent later when they are teenagers; they may ultimately be more gifted athletes.

The unfortunate fact is that, in a society and youth sports culture that places such a heavy emphasis on winning, an early bloomer enjoys advantages that may continue long after peers have caught up and, in many cases, passed him in terms of skill proficiency. As a result, a late bloomer will be put at a significant disadvantage in getting the attention of coaches and the playing time he needs to develop his skills, and may get so frustrated that quitting the sport becomes the only viable option.[3]

Destined for stardom?

It was a glorious autumn Saturday morning in New England: bright sunshine, temperature in the mid-50’s, breezy, the fall foliage at its brilliant peak. Like millions of mothers across America, I was standing with a group of parents at a local elementary school, coffee mugs in hand, watching our sons and daughters play a co-ed, short-sided (7 on 7) recreational soccer game. Early and Late Bloomers in Youth Sports: Lessons for Parents (1)

While I kept my eye on my three sons whenever they were in the game, I couldn’t help but notice one of their teammates, a boy named Jake, who was around their age. It was the first time I had seen him play. It was obvious by the way he ran up and down the field, the skill with which he dribbled the ball, and the strength and accuracy of his shots on goal that, at least at age nine, his soccer skills were more advanced than those of my sons and the other players.

After Jake scored what must have been his fourth or fifth goal of the day, I turned to my husband and said, “I have no way of knowing, of course, but I am willing to bet right now that Jake is going to be captain of the high school varsity.” He said, “Well, a lot can happen between now and then, and it is impossible to predict whether he will still be this good when he is seventeen or eighteen, but if he continues to play like this, I wouldn’t want to bet against you.”

From that point forward, I made a point of following Jake’s athletic career. He continued to shine on the soccer field. His select club team won the state championship three years in a row; he was a four-time first-team conference all-star and Offensive Player of the Year in his junior and senior years, and team MVP during his senior season. As captain of his high school varsity, he was a four-year starter and a first-team All-State selection. After an outstanding high school career, Jake played college soccer, ending his college career with a total of four goals and one assist after appearing in a total of forty-five games, all as a sub, for a major university on the West Coast, where he earned conference honorable mention All-Academic honors.

Guessing game

How could I predict that Jake would become a successful high school athlete and play at the collegiate level? I coultn't, of course. I didn't have a crystal ball, or some kind of special ability to spot talent. It was just a lucky guess. As it turned out, the success Jake had as a nine-year old was because he actually was blessed with natural athletic talent. But research suggests that only one in four children who are star athletesin elementary school will still be stars when they reach high school.Predicting whether a preteen athlete will be a good enough high schoolathlete to land a college scholarship or even influence the admissionsprocess is thus almost impossible.

As a 2004 article in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance[1] observes, because athletic success involves multiple factors, including genetics, mental attitude, access to training, and money, any attempt to predict future achievement based on how skilled your daughter is at age nine, ten or eleven "is likely to be futile." Each child follows her own unique developmental timetable. While chronological age provides a rough index of developmental level, differences among children of the same age can be and often are great. In other words, as one expert observes, while "development is age related, it is not age dependent."

Advantages for Early Bloomers

Here are some of the advantages an early bloomer tends to receive:

  • more positive reinforcement and encouragement from adults;
  • earlier and more extensive socialization into sports;
  • access to better coaching, facilities, and competitive experiences (i.e., places on "select teams")[1,3] and
  • the benefit of a "residual bias" from being viewed as a talented athlete at an early age.

A 2004 article in the Journal of Sports Behavior[2] observes, "Early selection for elite sport participants [thus] can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for athletes and coaches. Players begin to think of themselves as talented and are thus likely to invest more time and effort into their sport with predictable results. As the identity of previously selected players becomes known to coaches and administrators, they watch those players more closely lest they miss an elite performer."

A 2013 Aspen Institute research paper puts it this way[3](albeit in the context of early sports specialization as opposed to the early versus late bloomer dichotomy):"Early critical incidents such as making a specific team could also lead to an increased self-esteem and intrinsic motivation as the athlete continues in the sport. Early sport samplers who may not achieve the same level of single-sport performance early in their career may not stand out and be selected for special opportunities, and thus subsequently lose interest or self-select out of continued competition. Thus, a young athlete may be deterred from further committment in sport as a result of a lost opportunity."

Downsides to being early bloomer

Although numerous advantages are conferred on an early bloomer, if your child experiences early success in sports, such success also has some downsides.

An early bloomer:

  • is often able to exploit his or her physical ability without having to work as hard at developing skills as less precocious players in order to stay competitive. When the others catch up physically, they may end up being better players because they have been forced to develop their skills while they grew into their bodies.
  • often has to try to live up to heightened expectations; this may lead him to practice and play more (e.g. multiple teams durning the same season, for instance) than his young body can handle in order to live up to his reputation. Playing under this kind of pressure often leads to burnout and all that extra wear and tear on his body can lead to overuse injuries.[3]
  • may define himself by whether he wins or loses; if he or she is unable to maintain the success he had early in his athletic career, if that self-image is shattered, the results can be disastrous and may lead her to quit sports altogether.
  • may tempt her parents to push her to specialize too early and/or train too hard. Excessive training too often leads toburnoutand/oroveruse injuries, some of which don't show up until high school or college, but can be traced to excessive training when the player was nine, ten or eleven. Parents need to avoid being lulled into valuing short-term success more than their child's long-term future. If they don't, they may be placing their child's physical safety and emotional health at risk.

Parenting Late Bloomers: Emphasize Skill Development

If your child is an average athlete or lags behind his peers, he may be a late bloomer. Late bloomers receive markedly less social support and reinforcement from parents, coaches, and peers. Worse, the adults charged with the responsibility of evaluating "talent" - most of whom don't understand developmental variability in children - may unfairly nip her athletic career in the bud by concluding that he or she lacks the potential to play sports at the highest competitive levels. Denied a place on a select, middle school, or high school sub varsity team, the late bloomer is more likely to drop out of sports rather than keep playing until he blossoms (that is, achieves his full athletic potential).

Here are six important lessons for parents of potential late bloomers:

  1. Take a balanced approach. Do not to get too down if your child is not immediately a superstar or too high if he is. The important thing is that he continues to play, to develop and learn new skills.
  2. Emphasize the process and the journey, not the results achieved; therefore,
  3. Avoid praising the outcome and instead praise effort;
  4. Help your child see herself as a whole person, not just as an athlete;
  5. Be realistic about possible reasons for early athletic success. Make sure your child understands that early success is not a guarantee of future success (and vice versa).
  6. Select a sports program that understands child development. Pick a program that recognizes that variability in the way children's athletic talent develops by offering all children a chance to play as long as they want to.

Adapted from the book, Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins ) by Brooke de Lench, Brooke de Lench is Founding Executive Director of MomsTEAM Institute, Inc., Director of Smart Teams Play Safe, Publisher of MomsTEAM.com, author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins), and Producer/Director/Creator of the PBS documentary, "The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer." Brooke is also a founding member of the UN International Safeguards of Children in Sports coalition.

She can be reached by email delench@MomsTeam.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @brookedelench.

Other sources:

1. Brady F. Children's Organized Sports: A Develomental Perspective. J Phys. Ed, Rec & Dance. 2004;75(2):35-38.

2. Glamser F, Vincent J. The Relative Age Effect Among Elite American Youth Soccer Players. J Sport Beh. 2004;27(1):31-38.

3. Sagas M. What does the science say about athletic develoment in children? Aspen Institute research brief. 2013 (http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/pubs/Proj...)(accessed March 22, 2014).

Early and Late Bloomers in Youth Sports: Lessons for Parents (2024)


What role should parents play in the youth sports experience? ›

This includes visibly supporting your kids and their coach, empowering yourself by learning about their chosen sport, watching and listening about practices and games, and providing helpful feedback after practices and games. Parents need to constantly work at being positive role models in their kid's activities.

What is the first question most parents typically ask after a youth sport competition? ›

'Did You Win? ' – If you were not watching, undoubtedly the most common question asked by sporting parents. This immediately tells your child that that is the thing that you value most, yet we know there are far more important things that form your children's sporting experience.

How can I help a late bloomer athlete? ›

Parenting Late Bloomers: Emphasize Skill Development
  1. Take a balanced approach. ...
  2. Emphasize the process and the journey, not the results achieved; therefore,
  3. Avoid praising the outcome and instead praise effort;
  4. Help your child see herself as a whole person, not just as an athlete;

Does athletic ability come from mother or father? ›

If a child's parents are athletic then there is more than a small chance that they will also grow up to be sporty but is this due to the genes they inherited or how they were brought up? It is most likely to be a combination of both, which is why parental influence has a big role in determining athletic ability.

How parents can take an active role in supporting children's learning and development? ›

Establishing a consistent structure and routine for learning with your child, for example scheduling dedicated time for homework or reading together every night before bed, helps make learning a priority in your family. In turn, this helps education become important to your child as well.

How can parents play an important role in their children's life? ›

Parents are among the most important people in the lives of young children. Parents include mothers and fathers, as well as other caregivers who act as parents. From birth, children rely on parents to provide them with the care they need to be happy and healthy, and to grow and develop well.

What are 5 important questions parents need to seek answers to when choosing early childhood programs? ›

High 5 Questions to Ask When Visiting an Early Learning Center
  • What's happening in the classroom? ...
  • How are teachers and children getting along? ...
  • How do teachers guide, and when needed, redirect children's behavior? ...
  • How do teachers talk with children? ...
  • How do teachers communicate with parents?
Nov 27, 2017

How do you deal with difficult parents in youth sports? ›

5 Tips for Dealing with Parents in Youth Sports
  1. Hold a Family Meeting at the Start of the Season.
  2. Communicate Often to Keep Families Involved.
  3. Give Parents Positive Opportunities for Involvement.
  4. Listen to Parents Who Voice Concerns.
  5. Manage Parent Tensions with Care.

What are at least three 3 questions you would ask the parents regarding their child's early development? ›

Parent survey questions to understand the relationship with their child
  • How much time do you spend with your child in a week? ...
  • Do you discuss your child's emotional and academic needs with them regularly? ...
  • How aware are you of your child's academic and extracurricular achievements?

How do you fix late bloomers? ›

Here are 7 tips for late bloomers on finding acceptance and living life on their own terms.
  1. Let go of expectations. ...
  2. Stop comparing. ...
  3. Pause and reevaluate. ...
  4. Remember: times are changing. ...
  5. Own your own timelines. ...
  6. Connect with other late bloomers. ...
  7. Savor your successes.
Oct 16, 2019

How do you know if your child is a gifted athlete? ›

Is your child talented in PE and sport?
  • Quick to learn skills or activities.
  • Confident and responsive to new challenges.
  • Motivated to practise and keen to perform.
  • Without fear of failure.
  • Able to reflect on how they performed and how to improve.
  • Keen to take the lead.
  • Fit for their age.

Are late bloomers more successful? ›

Late bloomers also learn resilience.

It's why late bloomers are often happier and more successful than their peers who enjoyed early success. Later in life, early achievers find out that things don't always go their way, and they aren't prepared for that struggle.

What do daughters inherit from their fathers? ›

Personality Traits

For example, if the father is an independent thinker or risk-taker, it's likely his daughter will have some of those same qualities. Other personality traits such as intelligence, empathy, creativity, and leadership skills can also be inherited from the father.

What genes are inherited from father only? ›

All men inherit a Y chromosome from their father, which means all traits that are only found on the Y chromosome come from dad, not mom. The Supporting Evidence: Y-linked traits follow a clear paternal lineage.

Do kids inherit athleticism? ›

Studies focused on similarities and differences in athletic performance within families, including between twins, suggest that genetic factors underlie 30 to 80 percent of the differences among individuals in traits related to athletic performance.

What are the activities that the parents do to help stimulate the child's development? ›

Simple activities such as playing, reading, and singing with children are core components of early childhood stimulation (ECS). ECS can improve young children's ability to think, communicate, and connect with others [1][4]. However, many children are not getting enough stimulation during this critical time [1].

What role could parents play in improving students learning? ›

Be Involved in the Child's Activities

Active participation of the parents also improves the parent-child bonding and builds trust and friendship between the two. Activities like reading, playing games, solving puzzles, are best to improve the child's learning, problem-solving skills and improve bonding.

How can practitioners encourage parents to support children's learning and development? ›

All contributions from parents should be encouraged and welcomed. Helping out during sessions, sharing interests or information about their culture, and taking part in discussions about the childcare service all provide the opportunity for parents to learn about children's learning, in the setting and at home.

What is the most important role a parent has for their children? ›

Parents have the duty to protect their children's rights until they are old enough to make their own way in the world. The authority to make decisions concerning and affecting the care, welfare and proper development of the child is known as 'parental responsibility'.

How should parents support their child to be successful? ›

Here are 10 ways parents can put their kids on track to be successful students.
  1. Attend Back-to-School Night and Parent-Teacher Conferences. ...
  2. Visit the School and Its Website. ...
  3. Support Homework Expectations. ...
  4. Send Your Child to School Ready to Learn. ...
  5. Teach Organizational Skills. ...
  6. Teach Study Skills. ...
  7. Know the Disciplinary Policies.

What is the most important thing a parent can do for their child? ›

Surround the child with unconditional love, attention, and care. Try and set a daily routine for the child. A child's sense of stability, confidence in the world, and uncertainty often falter in emergencies.

What are five guidelines for parents to help children learn? ›

5 ways to help set your child up for future success
  • Stimulate baby talk and treat it as real conversation. ...
  • Read to your baby to exercise language. ...
  • Use everyday experiences as learning opportunities. ...
  • Take play seriously. ...
  • Lead by example.

What are the four major areas children need to learn from their parents? ›

Each child develops at their own pace, and many factors, including age, genetics, and the environment can affect how and when a child develops. There are four main domains of a child's development: physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional. Let's dive deeper into each.

What questions do teachers ask parents about their child? ›

These are some of the best questions you can ask families during these times.
  • What do you feel is going really well for your child in this class, and why? ...
  • What do you feel is challenging for your child in this class, and why? ...
  • What sorts of things does your child tell you about his school day?

How do you calm down a child in sports? ›

The Key to Helping Kids Relax in Sports
  1. Deep breathing. Kids can learn how to take a deep breath or two into their stomach and hold it for 4-5 seconds. ...
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation. ...
  3. Self-talk. ...
  4. Cue words.
Feb 12, 2015

What not to do as a sports parent? ›

9 Things Good Sports Parents Avoid
Dec 2, 2016

What are the 4 parental responses to children? ›

The four main parenting styles — permissive, authoritative, neglectful and authoritarian — used in child psychology today are based on the work of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, and Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin.

What are the three 3 different strategies used by parents in raising their children proposed by Diana Baumrind? ›

In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three main styles of parenting: authoritarian, authoritative and permissive. A fourth style, neglectful, was later added in the 1980s by Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin.

What are some questions that are appropriate in a parent conference? ›

Ask and answer questions about your child's life
  • May I tell you about my child? ...
  • May I tell you about what's going on at home? ...
  • How is my child doing socially? ...
  • How is my child doing emotionally? ...
  • What are my child's academic strengths and weaknesses? ...
  • Is my child performing on grade level?
Oct 13, 2022

What are the problems with late bloomers? ›

A late bloomer may experience stress. It's developmentally normal to self-compare to others during this age and stage, and many teens will inadvertently compare themselves to their peers. What is this? This can cause embarrassment, which may lead to low self-esteem, and other mental health concerns.

What causes kids to be late bloomers? ›

Family History. Most often, it's simply a pattern of growth and development in a family. A guy or girl may find that his or her parent, uncle, aunt, brothers, sisters, or cousins developed later than usual, too. This is called constitutional delay (or being a late bloomer), and it usually doesn't need treatment.

Do you get athletic ability from mom or dad? ›

Some studies suggest that our mitochondrial DNA — and therefore our mom — plays a key role in our athletic endurance.

What are six characteristics of a child who is gifted? ›

Common Characteristics of Gifted Children:

Strong sense of curiosity. Enthusiastic about unique interests and topics. Quirky or mature sense of humor. Creative problem solving and imaginative expression.

Do gifted kids usually have gifted parents? ›

Research reflects that giftedness does “run in families”: for a gifted child, their genetically-related relatives — siblings and/or parents — are likely to also be gifted, though there are plenty of exceptions.

At what age do late bloomers grow most? ›

Early bloomers may start to notice changes in their bodies as early as age 10, whereas late bloomers may start at age 14. Of course, these changes could easily fall anywhere in between. Those who started on the later side, can expect to keep reaching new heights until the age of 18.

What are the six strengths of late bloomers? ›

The Six Strengths of Late Bloomers: Curiosity, Compassion, Resilience, Equanimity, Insight, and Wisdom.

How late is too late for late bloomers? ›

Late bloomers may start growing slowly or having growth spurts anywhere from late 13 to 16 or sometimes even older. If puberty hits either too early, i.e. at 9 yrs., or too late, i.e. 16–17 yrs., there may be a health problem and one should go and consult a doctor.

Does height come from mom or dad? ›

As a general rule of thumb, your height can be predicted based on how tall your parents are. If they are tall or short, then your own height is said to end up somewhere based on the average heights between your two parents. Genes aren't the sole predictor of a person's height.

What do all males inherit from their mother? ›

Males normally have an X and a Y chromosome (XY). A male inherits an X chromosome from his mother and a Y chromosome from his father. The picture above therefore shows the chromosomes of a male as the last pair of chromosomes (XY). Sometimes, there is a change in one copy of a gene which stops it from working properly.

Do you age like your mother or father? ›

A study from 2013 found that aging is not only "determined...by the accumulation of changes during our lifetime but also by the genes we acquire from our mothers." Other factors like skin elasticity, skin tone, and sun and environmental exposure can also play in role in whether or not you'll develop those wrinkles your ...

Which parent gives the most genes? ›

Genetically, a person actually carries more of his/her mother's genes than his/her father's. The reason is little organelles that live within cells, the? mitochondria, which are only received from a mother. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and is inherited from the mother.

Which parent determines eye color? ›

Your children inherit their eye colors from you and your partner. It's a combination of mom and dad's eye colors – generally, the color is determined by this mix and whether the genes are dominant or recessive. Every child carries two copies of every gene – one comes from mom, and the other comes from dad.

Can two unathletic parents have an athletic child? ›

Can two unathletic parents have an athletic child? Of course they can. Athletic skill comes from anatomy and physiology, training and desire. And there are many sports, each with its own demands.

Do kids get more athletic after puberty? ›

This dramatic growth spurt can have a significant effect on their sports. While the increase in body size and muscle strength may eventually improve athletic performance, there may be a temporary decline in balance and body control.

What role should parents play in their child's education? ›

Be a role model for learning.

When a young child begins formal school, the parent's job is to show him how school can extend the learning you began together at home, and how exciting and meaningful this learning can be. As preschoolers grow into school age kids, parents become their children's learning coaches.

How do you parent a youth athlete? ›

Youth Sports Parenting - 7 Ways to Support Young Athletes
  1. #1: Let Your Kids Follow Their Passions. ...
  2. #2: Model Positive Behaviors. ...
  3. #3: Encourage Your Kids to Respect Coaches. ...
  4. #5: Give Your Kids Nutritious Food Options. ...
  5. #6: Help Your Kids Manage Their Emotions. ...
  6. #7: Be Proud of Your Kids -- No Matter the Outcome.

What roles should parents play? ›

In the nurture role, you take care of your children's basic needs, such as food, medical care, shelter, clothing, etc., as well as give love, attention, understanding, acceptance, time, and support. You listen to your children, are patient, and have fun with them.

How do you involve parents in sports? ›

Aim to involve parents from day one. Create clear expectations and ask parents and young athletes to set goals for the season. Make sure families and players consider non-tangible goals–like building confidence or emphasizing work ethic. Throughout the season, communicate often and with everyone involved.

What are the 7 roles of parents? ›

Parents play seven roles. The seven roles that parents play include: the parent as nurture, in adult relationships, as an individual, as a worker, as a consumer, as a community member, and as an educator. Parents have all these roles which make their life more difficult, but a teacher could make it easier.

How do you involve parents in student learning? ›

Positive Study Environments
  1. Help parents find a balance that works for their child. ...
  2. Set up clear homework policies. ...
  3. Suggest enrichment activities. ...
  4. Start by introducing yourself at the beginning of the school year. ...
  5. Talk with parents, not at them. ...
  6. Ask families about their communication preferences. ...
  7. Start a blog.
Jul 25, 2016

Who should first teach the child the parents or the school teachers? ›

A Parent is a Child's First Teacher! Learning happens in the everyday moments you share with your child! You play an important role in your child's development and learning! Everything you and your child do together will teach important lessons that will help them grow and learn about their world.

What makes a good sports parent? ›

Good sports parents also are clear-eyed about what their child can do through sports. Not every youth sports athlete can go pro, win a college scholarship, or be the best on the team. Being positive doesn't have to mean being unrealistic. Expectations that go way overboard can put undue pressure on your kid.

How do you become a supportive parent to an athlete? ›

8 Ways to Be a Great Sports Parent
  1. Model Positive Behaviors. ...
  2. See the future, but enjoy the present. ...
  3. Encourage risk taking and find joy in the effort. ...
  4. Celebrate the competitor above the winner. ...
  5. Foster independence by allowing your athlete to take ownership. ...
  6. Treat the coach as an ally, not an adversary.
Oct 28, 2015

What are 5 responsibilities of a parent? ›

These include:
  • to protect your child from harm.
  • to provide your child with food, clothing and a place to live.
  • to financially support your child.
  • to provide safety, supervision and control.
  • to provide medical care.
  • to provide an education.
Sep 22, 2020

What are 3 responsibilities parents have? ›

The three primary parenting responsibilities are providing physical care and support, nurturing emotional and social development, and promoting education and learning. By prioritizing these responsibilities, parents can help their children grow and thrive and build strong, healthy, and happy families.

What are three roles played by parents? ›

Parents have many roles in the socializations. They contribute to the planning, care for and interact with their own child, observe other adults care for and interact with their own children, and watch their child interact with peers.

What do you talk about at a sports parent meeting? ›

Share how excited you are about the upcoming season and having their child on your team. Explain your relevant background as an athlete, coach, parent and community member. Learn more about the parents too. Consider asking each parent to share a favorite memory from their sports experience as a way to get to know them.

How can I help my child get better at sports? ›

Posted in:
  1. Ask the right question after practices or games. ...
  2. Offer opportunities for your young athlete to work outside of practice. ...
  3. Be at as many games as you can. ...
  4. Offer praise for hard work. ...
  5. Let your young athlete bask in and enjoy good games, points scored and games won. ...
  6. Don't let your anxiety push your young athlete.
Nov 8, 2021

How can parents facilitate play? ›

How can parents encourage free play at home?
  1. Make sure your child has a safe space to play in. When playing freely, children should have the chance to explore and do most things on their own to build confidence and independence. ...
  2. Listen to your child. ...
  3. Give some clues and prompts along the way. ...
  4. Make it a bonding activity.

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