Have you ever thought of reasons why good athletes get suspended, omitted from national squads or have a very short career while they seemed to have immense potential? Let me put forward one of the main reasons – discipline.
Discipline is an essential foundation for any sport. It builds an athlete’s character to help them set their mind to achieve great things. Beyond sports, it is also instrumental to succeed in other areas of life. Participating in sports early in life gives a lifelong sense of discipline in children. Coaches, in particular, play an important role in instilling discipline in young athletes. Coaches should be aware of this responsibility and show their athletes the benefits they can get from being disciplined. Here are some of the benefits athletes can acquire from being disciplined: discipline teaches the value of hard work. As with most things, there are no shortcuts. Any athlete, regardless of their level, has to work hard to improve and reach their full potential. If Jonas Junias Jonas didn’t have the discipline to devote his time and effort to master his skills, he might have never won the MTC Sportsman of the Year award.
Hard work can often be as valuable as ‘natural’ athletic talent. Let your athlete know that talent without hard work isn’t enough to be successful. Every athlete experiences losses several times in their careers. It is important for coaches to remind your athlete to discipline themselves by not dwelling on the loss, but instead learning from it to improve their performance next time. After all, losses are only temporary setbacks. Discipline often means cutting back on some things (alcohol, unhealthy food and drugs) that get in the way of fully concentrating on the sport they love. Try setting up a ‘reward system’ when your athlete achieves something so that they won’t feel too repressed. It might be difficult at first for a young athlete to cope, but with the right guidance, they can see that these sacrifices are necessary and expected of them. Successful athletes know how to set both short-term and long-term goals. Discipline teaches an athlete how to set goals (learn a new skill? improve techniques?), and focus their efforts in accomplishing these.
Having self-discipline makes it easier for an athlete to recognise the importance of practice and preparation in reaching goals (as an individual or a team). Coaches should be time-conscious and arrive early during sessions to greet and prepare their athlete.
If an athlete sees that being on time is a priority for their coach, they’ll be more likely to do the same. Coaches should also be well-prepared to avoid any problems that could arise during training or competitions. Every session should have concrete goals to ensure that everything is organised. All in all, it’s important for coaches to clearly communicate their goals, rules, and expectations to their athlete. Providing feedback should also be done regularly to help the athlete improve their skills. As a coach, you are expected to set rules for your athlete. Make sure these rules are realistic and beneficial in the long run. Whether it’s arriving on time or avoiding unhealthy food, take the initiative to set good examples, and encourage them to follow suit.
* Stefan Ngolo is a sports enthusiast and sports education scholar. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org