Beware of the gap.
It’s a challenging time for you – physically and psychologically. Some of your friends will be experiencing it already, some not yet. But, eventually, you’ll all go through it.
You probably know the gap better as puberty. A confusing yet exciting time in your life when you’re growing quickly. But a time to staunchly protect.
Because you’re most at risk of dropping out during the gap. To give sport away because reality no longer meets your expectations. Things get too serious, too boring, too hard.
You don’t want to be another statistic. Transitioning the gap is vital. The things you will learn from this stage, the grit, the determination, bouncing back and growing from failure will all give you strategies to be successful later in life.
The more you understand the gap, the more likely you will be to come out the other side excited about what’s coming next.
What You Need to Know About the Gap
Self-identity is confronted.
You’re going to transition from a world dominated by the beliefs and ideas of your parents to one where peers are the primary influence.
And it turns out that the people you spend the most time with change who you are.
Characteristics of sporting success, like hard work, dedication and a willingness to try new things, are cemented by what you most often do. All of these things are heavily influenced by the people you hang out with, or look up to.
So, be careful. The gap will take you down the road of these groups and the behaviours that define them.
Your interests will develop during the gap.
An internal drive towards the things that bring you the most joy will become clearer. Up until now, discovering the world came through opportunities given to you by others. The sports you play has been influenced by the experiences your parents had growing up. You play rugby because your dad did. He was good at it, felt good doing it, and wants to give you that same experience.
But now it’s time to make you own decisions. Play for the love of the game, nothing else.
You’ll become more aware of who you are.
You start to see the world differently, and seek out more choice over what you do. You steer towards the things that provide fulfilment. And push back against the things that don’t.
It’s why video games are so attractive to you – you get to call the shots 100% of the time. You’re also driven to do more of the things you’re good at, or believe you can get better at. You crave progression and are more than willing to put the effort in when it means something to you. And you can see its relevance.
A sense of belonging is a strong motivator for you. You like to feel part of something, to contribute to something worthwhile. You’ll give everything for the team. But be smart about how much you take on. More is not always better – especially when you’re growing so fast.
Boys and girls grow and develop in different ways, which will affect how you experience the gap. If you’re a boy, you’ll get fitter naturally. As you develop, your heart and lungs get bigger. You can pump more oxygen-rich blood around the body to your working muscles, increasing your energy production, and letting you go harder for longer.
You’re also reap the benefits of the male sex hormone, testosterone. Your muscle will get bigger, and stronger, which will help you produce more power. But you may feel uncoordinated at times.
Relax, you’re growing fast. Skills you were once competent at, may not feel so good.
Be patient. They’ll come back.
You may also experience sore muscles more often. If the pain is bad enough, don’t play through it. Your chance of injury increases during the gap, so have a day off. Rest is important.
If you’re a girl, the physical changes you’ll experience during the gap will work against you. Evolutionarily speaking, you’re approaching a time of preparation. Preparation to procreate. And so physically, you’re about to adapt, accordingly. Your sex hormones will change your body composition, increasing fat tissue relative to muscle, affecting your strength. Your ability to control your body, especially in physically demanding circumstances will decrease, causing a natural drop in athleticism. And it’s at this point that you’re more at risk of injury. But don’t stress, strength training can do wonders for you during the gap. So, get amongst it.
And once last thing.
Because you’re experiencing so much change during the gap, your performance will vary. Therefore, gauging your success solely on your sporting results is dangerous. Instead, think of the gap as a time for developing new skills and abilities, and recalibrating old ones.
But most of all, make sure you spend the gap doing the things that you love, and that excite you to come back for more tomorrow.