While this age group is very close to reaching adult maturity, it is important to remember that their brains are still developing and some athletes may still be growing either in size or strength while they continue to mature emotionally. We also know that some of the late maturing young adults can progress to be some of the finest athletes. This is why we might observe some athletes peak in high school and others come into their own in college.

The Importance of Support

One challenge working with athletes at this level is to remember their need to be supported. As expectations rise and players are competing at higher levels, they still need regular encouragement to keep their confidence high as they can become somewhat fragile yet are not always willing to seek out help.

The Main Goal

If we have children playing sports at this age, either competitively or recreationally, our hope is that they love playing as much now as they did when they were 8. And for those of us who are disappointed that our children don’t make the college team, the growing options of intramural and club teams are very promising for our young adults who want to continue to play. In the end, if our young adults, regardless of their ability, still have a love of sports or physical exercise, mission accomplished!


This article was adapted by Dr. Ginsburg’s original posting on the US Lacrosse website and from the book Whose Game Is It, Anyway?, Ginsburg, Durant and Baltzell.

Dr. Richard Ginsburg
Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is a clinical psychologist and sport psychology consultant. He is co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital PACES Institute of Sport Psychology and is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ginsburg also serves as staff psychologist in the Newton Wellesley Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department and is the director of Behavioral Health for the Boston Red Sox. Dr. Ginsburg offers a broad range of clinical services to children, adolescents and adults and conducts youth and professional sport research. He is author of the book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway, A guide to helping your child get the most from sports, organized by age and stage and has served as a sport psychology consultant for a variety of professional and college-level sports teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo and ice hockey at Harvard University. He is a member of the US Lacrosse Safety and Science Committee and provides talks and consultations nationally to youth, high school, and collegiate athletic programs. Dr. Ginsburg played lacrosse and soccer at Kenyon College, where he won all-conference and all-Midwest honors. He is also a former independent school teacher and coach. He lives with his wife, Teri, and their two children in Newton, Massachusetts.