How about we mix it up? Diverse age or, in other words, mixed-age training is the best way to develop our student-athletes holistically. Mixed-age training? You may be wondering what this means. I'm speaking about age setting limitations on who can participate. Mix-aged training is something I incorporate into all my sessions, and encourage all trainers to do so because that's how you can develop leaders.

I believe that real leaders should not be measured by the number of followers they create, but by the number of leaders they produce. With that said, this is why I will always provide sessions that are diverse and unlike others. I will continue to have sessions with student-athletes of different ages and genders. Some may say this is not ideal and a bit unorthodox, but I don't agree. With my experience and a bit of primary research, I am convinced that mixed-age training is more rewarding to a student's learning than is age-divided sessions. Student-athletes have more to learn from students who differ from themselves in age and ability, than from those who are at their same age level; mixed-age training benefits both younger and older students. 
At EMT, my younger students learn from the older ones even when they are not interacting with them. They learn just from watching and listening. From observing, children obtain not just information but also powerful motivation. During my childhood, it seemed as though most of the younger students were motivated to do what those who are slightly older than themselves are doing. Children aren't particularly interested in mimicking their trainers or adults because they are too far ahead of them in ability. For example, an 8-year-old would rather work to keep up with a 10 -year-old than someone well beyond their years.

This type of training environment benefits the older students just as much as it does the younger ones. Interactions with younger children allows older children to be the knowledgeable students in training sessions, which forces them to practice patience and develop necessary leadership skills. Again, from my experience, older students in mixed-age sessions express more kindness and empathy towards younger students. They may even be more sympathetic not just to the younger students, but also to their peers.

My leadership and skills for training, mentoring and educating were developed mainly because I was constantly a part of mixed-age sessions as one of the oldest. I embraced it more and more each time because these sessions allowed me, the experienced student-athlete, to learn through teaching. I developed my composure, attentiveness, and welcomed the fact that younger student-athletes looked up to me, and because of this, I developed an even stronger work ethic.

I plan to provide a similar experience to this by giving my more experienced student-athletes an opportunity to develop leadership skills. By placing them in situations where they have to demonstrate drills and explain concepts to younger ones, our students will have to discover ways to first understand it in their mind before they put it into words. In this situation, the relationship between the older student, the teacher, and younger student, the learner, is more personal than usual, so the learner feels comfortable questioning and challenging the teacher. As a result of this, teaching and learning becomes a two-way street.

Leadership is something that must be developed from within. Most children only want to be in the younger role, but to me, being in the teaching role could be much more beneficial. The benefits of a mixed-age group doesn't automatically happen. In order for both to benefit, a culture in the training program has to be developed. Here at EMT, my staff and I will continue to create an environment in which both our younger and older student-athletes remain motivated and continue to evolve. 

So, who does mixed-age training benefit? I hope now you can answer it with confidence that everyone who's involved benefits. 
PARENTS! Please share with our younger students!
Quote of the Month:
"Enthusiasm is the baking powder to life. Without it, you are flat, with it, you rise!" 

"What happens to us parents and coaches," I often get asked, "that turns us from sensible, relaxed people to stressed out adults roaming up and down sports sidelines and screaming at every play?" 

It is a question I ponder a lot, especially as I often get to watch my young children's games played side by side with "competitive" youth soccer games. The parents on our sideline look next door and ask me "what is going on over there, why are they freaking out?" 

The other day over a cup of coffee, I discussed this question with my long time friend Paul, the father of 2 college-age athletes. We discussed what makes youth sports tip (the word used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point) from a relaxed, child centered environment to the ultra-competitive, win at all costs one we see far too often these days. This environment contributes a great deal to the 70% dropout rate in youth sports by age 13, yet it persists, and continues to expand. Paul had some interesting insight.
Video: What is Empower Me Training?

"Empower Me Training is more than just basketball. It's an environment where student-athletes can use basketball as a tool to empower themselves so they can become more disciplined, positive and will develop into better leaders for the real world. The concept of Empower Me Training is simple, progress over perfection."
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