I work with a lot of skilled, focused, determined and hard-working young athletes. One of the by-products of being that kind of athlete is that on occasion you get the opportunity to “play up.” For example, a freshman moving up to junior varsity basketball or a sophomore moving up to varsity football or even a freshman playing varsity in a sport like tennis or golf. Many of my kids tell me that they feel pressure when they play up and often they limit themselves, so as to not put themselves in position to fail.
Here’s what I tell kids who are given the opportunity to play up.
Playing up is a confidence booster
You should feel great about it! I hear kids say, “I’m just not as confident at the upper level as I am at the lower level.” You have to flip this thinking and be very intentional about your “self talk” when you play up. Here are a few things you could say:
• This is where I belong
• This is what I’ve worked for
• I can do this
• I love this
Don’t let moving up trick you into thinking you’re someone or something you are not.
• You have to work even harder now. Hard work got you there and it’ll take harder work to keep you there and even harder work still to reach the next level. Don’t think that because you “made it” you can now just chill.
• Be a great friend to your teammates that didn’t move up. You can’t control how other people feel or treat you, but you can control your own actions. Know that they’d all like to move up as well and they may not have the tools to be able to deal with your success… that’s not just a kid problem, it’s a life lesson.
• Re respectful of the older kids you are joining. They are your teammates and peers, but they aren’t necessarily stoked on you taking their minutes or spot on the team. So earn their respect through your hard work, character, humility and by being a great teammate that gives your best effort to help the team win.
Do the WHY that moved you up
Those things you do well at the lower level are why you were moved up… so do them at the upper level!
“Little Bobby, you are the best shooter on the freshman basketball team. We are going to move you up to the junior varsity team and I’d like for you to immediately pass the ball away every time you catch and never look for your shot!” This is NOT something that a coach is going to tell you. If you were moved up because of your shooting… then shoot!! Ask coach what kind of shots they’d like for you to take and then take them!
Coach moved you up for a reason. Find out why and live out that why. If you’ve been moved up because you are such a great leader and communicator, then be the best leader and communicator you can be!