The complete athlete: Youth directors, leaders brainstorm ideas for series

Published 12:31 am Sunday, January 21, 2018

The perfect athlete can be hard to find — a person who embodies all the characteristics of a successful player is a rare combination.

So is it possible to build the perfect athlete from a young age?

Taking a look into the best approach, local youth organizations leaders in the Miss-Lou have named their top attributes they would find in the “complete athlete.”

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Over the next several weeks, The Natchez Democrat will examine the attributes most coaches look for as athletes grow and mature.

Natchez YMCA Director Alice Agner, Miss-Lou Youth Director Mike Bowlin, Natchez Gymnastics President Kim Strawbridge and City of Natchez Recreation Department Youth League Director Wilbert Whittley contributed to the following list of qualities:

  • Strong work-ethic
  • Positive attitude
  • Self-confidence
  • Perseverance
  • Willingness to learn
  • Self-awareness

Leaders agreed the bottom line of youth sports is to make it a fun experience for all participants.

Based on the listed qualities, the series will seek to determine the most successful ways to foster them and make youth sports the most rewarding experience possible. It will ask questions to find the best way to teach and educate youth based on age group and skill level.

“It’s our job to make it fun for them,” Bowlin said. “We want them to leave better ball players than when they came in and teach them the basics of the game.”

Whittley hopes to expand, too.

“Why should I change what they already have?” he said. “Most of them have the knowledge of basic game play. They just don’t have the knowledge to be focused on surroundings in a game setting. We are just trying to enhance what the kids have and give them confidence to use those skills.”

While some attributes to the perfect athlete are concrete, others are a little less tangible and are harder to be taught. Regardless, Cathedral School Athletic Director Craig Beesley said it is possible to develop such qualities.

“I think some kids are more competitive than others, but I think you can teach a kid whatever sport they want to play,” he said.

Beesley said he thinks the area’s youth program are strong, and he thinks the lessons should continue to be widespread.

“I think every kid through high school should play ever sport they can,” he said. “At an early age, it’s more about getting the kids involved and letting them play multiple positions on that team.

“You never know what they are going to grow into. You just hope every coach has the same opinion to put the kids first.”