While both boys and girls will reach their peak growth spurts during these years, it is not always easy to predict when an athlete has reached his or her adult height and body composition. That said, adolescents at this age will be able to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and are fully aware of what it means to be part of team as well as able to accurately view their own abilities and the abilities of others.
They also may be prone to more anxiety as their capacity to think abstractly is more fully developed. Winning and losing may mean more to them and contribute to how they perceive themselves in their peer groups as well as how they form a sense of their identity. While these athletes may begin to look and talk like adults, they are still not fully adult. For example, their visual capacities are still developing. Some researchers indicate that peripheral vision can still improve functionally well into the teen years. This has obvious implications for field awareness, which should be considered by their coaches as they evaluate players and construct drills. The frontal lobes of the adolescent brain, which affect organization, planning, sequencing and impulse control, are still developing. So, once again, focusing on keeping drills clear, time-limited and concise are critical.
Instructions should still be clear and easy to follow, even if the capacity to handle more information exists in adolescents. Also, while the attention span of this age group is greater than elementary school athletes, it is still important to keep practices concise and active. Practices that extend beyond two hours often lose the attention of most adolescents as well as expose them to fatigue and injury as well as burnout. The challenge for adults working with adolescents is to recognize their growing abilities while keeping an eye out for the areas that are still maturing.
The Coaches Challenge
These athletes still need much support and guidance and may not be ready for the prime time adult pressure that they will experience as college students and beyond. Playing time at this age, particularly at the high school levels, may now be based more on ability. A critical challenge for coaches at this stage is to create roles so that all team members feel valued, even if their playing time is limited.
This article was adapted by Dr. Ginsburg’s original posting on the US Lacrosse website and from the book Whose Game Is It, Anyway?, Ginsburg, Durant and Baltzell