My youth athletic training-room culture promotes free choices and personal responsibility for the athletes by giving them opportunities for guided discovery. While it is important to know and follow the specific instructions I give in circumstances where they are learning new and proper exercise form, and I would never leave them in a situation that risks injury, they also have opportunities to explore their abilities at their own pace. I borrow a term from my soccer training called “guided discovery.”
Desired growth as an athlete will not come from simply obeying orders. They are choosing to work out, and they can choose, within appropriate limits, how they work out. Often an athlete will ask, “Do I have to do cable presses,” or “Do I have to increase my weight?”
The simple answer is, “You don’t HAVE to do anything.”
I don’t make them do it. I don’t make them increase their weights. This is great preparation for life – no one is going to make them try out for a sport, no one is going to make them go to work, no one is going to make them pay their mortgage. Yes, there are unpleasant consequences for failing to do some things, but they can choose to take those consequences rather than following the rules or advice. Young athletes are so used to being to what to do something, when to do it, and how, they often initially give me dirty looks when I tell them they do not have to anything. But, eventually they get it and when they freely choose to increase the difficulty of an activity, they have ownership of the exercise and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing it is all theirs as well.
More often than not, athletes given the responsibility of guided discovery will make more progress than expected – more than they would have through obedience alone. The guided discovery allows the athletes to see the benefit of adding challenge to their workouts and to understand the concept they are ultimately the masters of their own destiny. When we do only things that other people make us do, we limit both what we can accomplish and the rewards that come from achieving our own goals. When we follow a roadmap of successful habits and activities of our own volition, success and satisfaction are likely to follow.
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