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Supporting The Transition From Youth To Senior Athlete

NYSI Athlete Life Management: Youth-to-Senior Transition Programme

In Sports School, student-athletes have to balance their academic performance with their sporting ambitions. But that’s not all, one of the most challenging phases the student-athletes encounter is the youth-to-senior transition period. 

Youth-to-senior transition is an unavoidable process where youth athletes have to deal with the demands of becoming senior athletes. Some examples of such pressures include higher physical demands from training, increased levels of competition, having to adapt to a new team culture and meeting higher expectations as they advance into senior athletes. This phase usually occurs for athletes aged 18-24 but it can vary according to the sport.

Alongside the newfound challenges in the athletic domains, student-athletes are also required to cope with demands in non-athletic domains. These include dealing with the anxieties of transitioning into a young adult and with the stress of heavier academic burdens. Youth-to-senior transition is a shifting and multi-faceted process, which has been seen to occur over months or even years.

Having a strong understanding of the difficulties youth athletes face, the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) launched their Youth-To-Senior Transition Programme this year, with a three-pronged workshop approach to tackling three main areas – Core Workshop 1: Introduction to Youth-to-Senior Transition, Core Workshop 2: Perception of Transition and Core Workshop 3: Coping Strategies. 

Guided by NYSI Athlete Life staff, the workshops are conducted with youth athletes to help guide them through the youth-to-senior development process. In addition, NYSI Athlete Life staff also organised training for all the Sport Academies’ General Managers (GM) so that they are able to conduct the YST workshops on their own.

Track and Field Academy student-athletes in the Polytechnic route attended all three core workshops, held in April and May. Track and Field Academy chooses to send the older student-athletes as the academy feels it is more relevant for them in their sporting progression.

“The workshop was very informative and detailed for athletes to understand. It also gives athlete a reassurance that a tough transition is part of the process of being a professional athlete and they are not alone. These courses are important as it gives clearer insights to the juniors in terms of the word 'success'. Not every youth athlete successfully transition into senior athletes but was still able to accomplish great achievements in terms of studies and work,” observed Track and Field student-athlete Tyeisha Rene Misson Khoo (DBIZ Year 2).

The Swimming Academy’s student-athletes have completed the first two core workshops, and are on their way to completing the final session. The Swimming Academy’s approach differs slightly, and the academy’s decision is to cascade the workshops based on the training groups and cohort batches, making sure it is applicable for each group.

Swimmer and DBS Year 1 student-athlete Jerald Lium (Lin Jiaxing) found the workshops a safe place to gather and process his thoughts: “While I enjoyed the short visualisation and meditation sessions, the segment on drawings was my favourite part. Being able to illustrate our struggles, then reviewing them later, helped me realise that they weren't actually worth worrying about.”

The Individual Programme too, have completed two core workshops of the programme. For Individual Programme, the student-athletes undertake the programme when they are about to transition, usually in the Secondary 3 to Secondary 5 band or when they are in year 1 of their Polytechnic studies. The situation is also dependant on the individual student-athlete and guided by their National Sport Association (NSA) and NYSI in collaboration with their GM.

Secondary 4 golfer Jaymie Ng Wan Xin said the workshops helped her to understand that the transition requires hard work and prepares her for the coming years: “I found the section on pathways most useful because it allowed me to broaden my perspective and assured me that there are many other choices I can make if I don’t achieve my goals.”

Sports School is able to support and grow student-athletes into well-rounded senior athletes with NYSI’s focus on athlete development and proper education on coping techniques. Preparing parents and coaches to support the athlete’s progression is also crucial. A successful youth-to-senior transition helps the athlete effectively cope with the transition, achieve good sporting performance in senior sport and attain healthy mental well-being.

There’s no one all-encompassing solution, therefore, it’s important to consider differences and nuances in individual student-athletes when providing support.

What helps is also accurately perceiving and uncovering the difficulty of the transition – “I think it is especially important for youth athletes to realise that there will be changes, and they should readily adapt to those changes. It will also help them understand their feelings better, so situations like losing interest will be easier to accept,” said Jerald.

“There are many parts in the workshop that were very relatable to many athletes. Especially the difficulty in interacting with new teammates and finding a balance in understanding how the team works, etc. The biggest takeaway for me would be knowing that I can reach out to people to seek help and be knowledgeable so I can pass on my knowledge to my fellow juniors,” said Tyeisha.

What They Said...

“Planning is one of the most important aspects of every sports athlete in order for them to be concise or clear with where they are heading to, or achieving throughout their sporting season or journey. The context of sports would always have different type of levels, such as being in the different age categories like U20, Men’s Open and etc. Different levels of categories hold different fundamentals as well as expectations. As a youth, standards may not be as serious as compared to the senior levels, and with them knowing or understanding these strategies, it would provide useful insights and allow them to use that to their advantage to build a proper sporting learning experience as they progress through their sporting journey.” – Mohammad Irfan Qabeel Md Daud, Track and Field Academy, DSLM Year 4

“These courses are very helpful as they help us set the right mind set and know what to expect before entering into the senior level. During the zoom session, Mr Ng told us about past experiences where other athletes transitioned from juniors to seniors and the challenges they faced, also, how they overcame these challenges. Hence giving me a rough idea of what i should expect and do when I transition from junior to senior level next year. During the zoom sessions we were also asked many different questions, one of them was why we made certain decisions. We were told that we should always remember the reason why and use it as motivation whenever we were feeling tired or lazy. I find this very effective as i managed to motivate myself countless times during the past few months leading up to my race and sure enough hard work pays off.” – Nicholas Chong Xin Le, Individual Programme (Cycling), DBIZ Year 1.

“My GM, Mr Chin, showed us slides about what it takes for the transition from youth to senior. The slides gave us some scenarios and examples that enable me to better understand how to overcome situations we face. I learnt how to manage my life and set goals so that I would know what I want to achieve and what I have to do to achieve my golas,” –  Carol Rachmadi, Swimming Academy, Secondary 4. 

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