Rodman, rebounding and value of multiple sports in soccer star's youth
By Greg Bach
Growing up, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team forward Jessica McDonald loved watching former NBA great Dennis Rodman out-leap and out-hustle opponents for rebounds.
She pursued missed shots during her youth basketball games with the same zeal and effectiveness as the five-time NBA champ.
And she utilized the skills she gained from a multi-sport childhood to carve out a spectacular soccer career that is still chugging along.
“I was a multi-sport athlete,” McDonald says of a youth spent growing up in Arizona. “You name it and I played it. The reason why I highly recommend playing multiple sports is that you can use your strengths in other sports and apply those so that can be an advantage for you.”
She points to the basketball court where she scooped up some mighty valuable skills that have come in handy on the soccer field.
“One of my strengths for basketball was rebounding, I loved Dennis Rodman growing up,” says McDonald, a member of the 2019 World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. “He was a great rebounder. I wanted to apply that to basketball obviously, and I was also able to do so in soccer when it came to timing headers, too. How high I could jump with accuracy heading the ball and timing rebounds, those are similar movements. It’s all about beating your opponent to the ball and getting height, little things like that you are able to apply to your sport.”
Along with the importance of playing multiple sports, check out what the lethal scoring forward and MVP of the 2018 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) championship game shared that you can use while working with your young athlete or youth team:
FINDING THE FUN IN PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE
Pressure accompanies all facets of life. The sooner kids learn to enjoy the challenges of playing amid it, rather than shrinking from it, the more fun and success they’ll have along their journey.
“Sometimes you can turn pressure into positive fuel to want to succeed on the field,” McDonald says. “It’s kind of fun, to be honest, when there is pressure on you. It’s nice to be able to prove people wrong.”
Most young athletes are petrified of making mistakes, embarrassing themselves and being yanked from games for making them.
That’s why it’s all-important that coaches help their players understand that mistakes are normal and they’re a part of competing.
“Growing up I had coaches and mentors who cared and one thing that I definitely learned from all of them is it’s normal to make mistake,” McDonald says. “When you go out into a game you have to know that mistakes are going to happen, and you have to move on from it. Obviously, you don’t want to ever make a mistake – it’s not the greatest feeling in the world – but it’s just something that you have to accept and quickly move on from and refocus.”
And it’s up to volunteer coaches to help their players navigate that process.
BE A PART OF ERASING A TROUBLING TREND
We know why so many kids bail on sports every season, but every volunteer coach and parent of a young athlete new to sports has an opportunity to help reverse this troubling trend.
“I’ve seen it happen to kids where they burned out because their parents were pressuring them,” McDonald says. “You’ve got to make it fun and help them love playing because it’s something that they can look forward to and take pride in. Pure joy when you are doing something is very, very important, especially for our youth.”
When coaches are able to get players to work together and enjoy the process of striving to get better as a team, the rewards are endless.
“One of the incredible things about being in a team environment is when you all have the same passion and same goal in mind and want to succeed as a team,” she says. “That’s what makes the entire process fun. If you’re going to be successful you have to have fun with it.”
Sian Beilock, a leading cognitive scientist and author of Choke, shares strategies you can use to help your young athletes perform at their best when the pressure crashes in during the big moments
Former Seattle Seahawks defensive back Jordan Babineaux, author of Pivot to Win, shares pillars that young athletes can lean on to lead successful lives, and more
Olympian Alexi Pappas, author of the page-turning memoir Bravey, shares her struggles with depression and how coaches and parents can normalize discussions about mental health and be difference makers for young athletes
Former world-ranked squash player turned bestselling author Ivy Pochoda shares powerful life lessons scooped up along her youth sports journey, and how meaningful it has been to have collaborated on books with the late Kobe Bryant