A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Hidden Gems: Expose kids to many positions to uncover their talents
By Greg Bach
Taryne Mowatt’s legendary pitching career began in the most unlikely of places: behind home plate.
It was there, as a 7-year-old playing catcher on her local rec team, that her coach noticed her arm and suggested she should give pitching a try.
Turns out that was a pretty good call.
It also serves as a valuable reminder to volunteer coaches of all sports these days of the importance of giving young players the chance to explore a variety of positions.
Because you never know what child’s hidden talents might surface, just like Mowatt’s did.
JOURNEY TO GREATNESS
“I wasn’t very good when I first started out pitching,” says Mowatt, a two-time national champion and assistant coach and pitching coach for the Ole Miss softball team. “But my dad always said if you want to become a great pitcher you have to put in the work and it’s going to take time. Even when my dad coached me he would tell me these pitchers are better than you and that I had to wait my turn. So, I just kept at it and then I started becoming pretty consistent and started getting more opportunities and just really enjoyed being on the field and being the one that had the ball in their hands.”
And she quickly became the one that opposing hitters dreaded facing – and with good reason.
She was lethal.
She helped lead Arizona to back-to-back national championships. During the Wildcats’ march to the ’07 championship she put up numbers that would make an accountant’s head spin: she won 42 games, collected 522 strikeouts, was named MVP of the Women’s College World Series and set four tournament records.
She also picked up a couple of ESPY Awards for her efforts – Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete.
That’s how incredibly good she was.
Amid all the accolades and all the success, she never lost sight of why she was lacing up the spikes. That was to have fun playing a sport she fell in love with from Day One of T-ball.
“There’s a lot more pressure on younger athletes to be successful today and I wish it wasn’t the case,” Mowatt says. “When I was growing up it was fun and my parents always preached that if I wasn’t having fun it wasn’t worth playing. Every time young athletes go out they should enjoy what they are doing.”
It’s a message that parents need to grab onto, as well.
Seasons become a blur. One merges into the next. And the special moments that accompany youth sports participation are fleeting.
So, when moms and dads are too busy pushing their kids, or worried about getting them to the next level, they’re missing out on some special times that can’t be recaptured.
“I would tell parents to enjoy the moment with their kids because you don’t have that opportunity to do that once they grow up,” she says. “I know they’re thinking they have to get them to college and they have to get them better so they can start, but enjoy the moment with them because these experiences are what build athletes and give them those life skills and those characteristics to become good human beings. If parents are putting too much pressure on them and they’re not enjoying the moment their child is going to grow up so fast and they’re going to be like ‘where did that time go? I wasted years getting upset with them and putting all this pressure on them when I could have had all these special moments, whether they won or lost.’”
A powerful message from a former player who performed at the highest level that parents of all young athletes should embrace.
Winner of gold medals at the 2016 and 2012 Summer Olympics, Missy Franklin encourages young athletes – win or lose – to be proud of doing their best. Are you teaching young athletes to embrace this important mindset?
The Orlando Pride’s Jasmyne Spencer focuses on five pillars when working with young players. Use them to help make an impact with your youth teams and young athletes, too.
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