How Youth Athletes Can Take it From Practice Field to Playing Field

The NFL Wild Card weekend was just that, wild! With three games decided by three points or less, and the fourth game ending with a team, who barely made the playoffs, earning a great road win, it was fun for sports fans. Through all the things that happen in professional sports throughout each season -- good and bad headlines. Weekends, and games like this remind us how fun sports can be to play, watch, or coach.

Win, advance, and do it again

I expect more of the same as the NFL Division round kicks off this weekend in Boston. One game that I'm looking forward to are my hometown Colts versus the Patriots. These are two teams who have had several playoff battles in the past, and are pretty familiar with each other.

Although, this time around there are some new faces, most notably Andrew Luck is the quarterback of the Colts, not Peyton Manning. One new face of the Colts isn't a new face at all in this rivalry. It is Deion Branch, who this week signed with the Colts to help out their injury depleted receiving corp.

The playoffs require players to get it done

Of course, Deion used to play on the Patriots side, so it brings an interesting twist. Obviously you might think, Deion can reveal some insider secrets based on his experience with the Patriots, which the Colts can use to their advantage. When Deion was asked that question here is what he said,
"I'm an old school player. I always learned from my coach back in the days. You can always tell somebody what you're doing, but they still gotta stop you. So if that came about - we still gotta go out and stop 'em or they still have to stop us."
Basically he said, no matter how much knowledge you have, you still have to go out and do the job. This is an important lesson to youth athletes. This is exactly why the Wild Card weekend played out the way it did. The four teams that won had to execute what they'd been practicing all week.

Will your players get the job done when it counts?

Teams that may have been expected to win coming into the game still had to do what it takes to finish off the game. The Chiefs after being up 28 points in the 2nd half were expected to close out with a win, but the Colts were the team who made the stops and plays to come back and win.

Each team is a good example for a youth athlete on how to get the job done.  Here are four ways your youth athletes can take it from the practice field to the playing field and get the job done.

  1. Never give up. Some teams would have packed it up and regrouped for next season. But the Indianapolis Colts aren't made like that. They executed very poorly in the first half, but they never gave up. When your athletes keep playing their best and hardest until the final horn sounds they'll be able to execute and turn defeat into victory.
  2. Take advantage of every opportunity. The San Diego Chargers got into the playoffs with the help of the Chiefs resting their starters, and a missed call at the end of their last regular season game. Then showed up to Cincinnati and walked out with a double digit point victory. They were able to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them, and kept their season alive. Learning to take advantage of every opportunity will position your youth players to get victories and do unexpected things.
  3. Don't let the past dictate your present. The New Orleans Saints had never won a road playoff game, and they weren't a great road playoff team this season. To top it off they were going to play in a cold and nasty outdoor game in Philadelphia. What did that mean to the Saints? Nothing! They went to Philly and came out with their first ever road playoff win. When your players learn from the past, but focus on the moment they can execute better.
  4. Play focused and play hard. The San Francisco 49ers had to travel to the frozen tundra in Green Bay, although they had a better record this season. San Fran quarterback Colin Kapenick wore no sleeves or gloves, in minus-10 degree weather with the wind chill. When asked after the game if he was cold he replied, "I've played in cold-weather games before...I feel like it's more mental than anything." The focus he and the 49ers team had allowed them to execute better than the Packers and walk out, shivering, with a victory. A focus on what needs to be done will help your players get the job done on the field in any situation.
How do you help your kids and players execute the things they've learned and practiced?

Jackie Bledsoe, Jr. is a sports parent of three, and writes on sports parenting. He has played sports for over 30 years, including the collegiate level, and coached youth sports for the past eight years.  

photo credit: ryan lejbak via photopin cc

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