During middle school years youngsters are in the process of identity formation. For those who love sports, their identity as an athlete becomes entwined with their identity as a person. As a result, their identity can be threatened as sports become more competitive. Most youngsters drop out rather than “failing out.” Those who choose to take on the challenges can face problems that include:

  •      Being evaluated at highly competitive tryouts for the first time

  •      Having a coach who already puts winning ahead of player development

  •      Feeling isolated by teammates

  •      Seeing themselves as inferior to other same-age players

  •      Encountering systematic bias in certain sports programs

  •      Being negatively influenced by coaching decisions and behavior

  •      Confronting greater demands for their time

  •      Having their play impacted by their growth rate

  •      Coping with physical changes to their developing bodies

  •      Being “initiated” by older teammates, especially when playing for a school team.

As a young athlete moves into high school, many of the challenges of middle school increase rather than decrease as the stakes become higher and the filtering system eliminates more young players from competition. In addition, college recruiting becomes a concern for many student-athletes and parents need to understand how it works.

By the time an athlete is in college, many of their earlier challenges are gone but new ones can appear. For example, in football a running back could grip the ball well during practice but fumble during games. In soccer, a goalie could lose his or her sense of timing or a forward could start striking the wrong part of the ball with the wrong part of the foot. Pressure at the collegiate level is more intense than before and this pressure can manifest itself in many ways, leading to poor performance, decreased motivation, and frustration. Even in college, parents want to see their athlete perform at their peak.

The Promising Athlete provides parents with individual consultations by phone or in person to help guide them through challenging times, no matter the age of their student-athlete.  Contact Dr. Fahlberg for more information and your free 30 minute consultation at 978-761-9952.  For additional consultations see


In addition, workshops can be provided on a variety of topics that can help groups of parents understand better how to best meet the needs of their student-athletes. Topics include:

  •      How to help your student-athlete through middle school years

  •      How to help your student-athlete through the high school years

  •      What you need to know about concussions

  •      What your student-athlete needs from you

  •      How to cope with the new world of youth sports

  •      College Recruiting 101

Call Dr. Fahlberg for more information  on customizing a workshop to meet the needs of your parent group.


I was so small, I wasn't even going back out for my junior year.  But my mom and dad sat me down and said,  "we didn't raise a quitter - you're going back out.'"  I made the team and everything happened from there.

Mark Buerle

Chicago White Sox Pitcher

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