Kristi Pikiewicz Ph.D.

Meaningful You

Book Brings Development and Attachment to Youth Sports

Youth sports lessons from LeBron James, Julie Foudy and more

Posted Mar 02, 2016

Source: Flickr/jenny818

This blog curates the voices of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association. Andrea Corn, PsyD, licensed psychologist specializing in treating children, adolescents, and families in South Florida, submits this post.

Being able to help one’s community is something many of us aspire
to do. How many of us desire to share ideas of therapeutic value in
hopes of offering a service to a wider audience beyond the confines
of our office walls? To achieve this feat takes steadfast effort,
patience, plus a little luck!

Ironically, it was a disappointment that unexpectedly led me in this
direction. After presenting a developmentally based paper at a Youth
Sports Summit at Springfield College, a professor suggested
publishing. My paper was applying various psychoanalytic concepts –
notably the first four stages of Erikson’s Psychosocial theory, the
accompanying virtues embedded within (hope, willpower, purpose,
and competency) and sharing 2 case studies, weaving them into
children’s youth sport experiences.

Ultimately, the applied analytic ideas and accompanying theoretical
concepts weren’t a good fit with the journal’s ideology so the paper
was never published. Shortly thereafter, an opportunity arrived to
teach Sports Psychology at a local college. My interest in youth
sports sharpened as a result of two well-researched youth sports

According to the studies by the National Alliance of Youth
Sports and others, upwards of 35 million children play
organized sports yet by age 13, 70% drop out.
The developmental explanations to account for this youth sports
attrition were understandable. Yet, what if adults were better attuned
to the inner world of the young athlete; might the results change?
This led me to turn my attention to a different audience.

I shared these ideas with sports reporter and class guest speaker
Ethan J. Skolnick who agreed to collaborate with me in this
empirically based project.

While countless books have been devoted to this topic; we took a
different approach. Instead of telling parents what to do, our book,
Raising Your Game – Over 100 Accomplished Athletes Help you
Guide Your Girls and Boys Through Sport is based on the lived
experienced of the true experts, those who have experienced sports
at every level, for their anecdotes and advice.

Mr. Skolnick spoke to a wide range of current and retired Professional
and Olympic Athletes. These men and women spanned five decades
from the sports world and represented various cultures, continents,
and SES backgrounds. What was central to the book was to speak
to athletes of different family structures (2 parent, 1 parent, foster
parent, adoptive parent, etc.). The caliber of athletic talent was
extraordinary. LeBron James and Bill Walton (basketball); Chipper
Jones and Joe Torre (baseball); Derrick Brooks and Dan Marino
(football); Shannon Miller (gymnastics); Julie Foudy (soccer); Sanya-
Richards Ross (track & field); and Dara Torres (swimming) are
examples of participants.

They shared their youth sport involvement--and in some cases, as
parent or coach, offering advice for what matters most for creating a
fun and worthwhile experience. They spoke freely and passionately
about everything from the role of mentors to their concerns about the
current state of youth sports.

This complex project took 4 and ½ years to complete as every
athlete’s experience and story was integrated within a developmental
arc adding ideas from Winnicott, Piaget, Blatt, and Attachment

The goal was not to create a pro athlete but to show parents through
their stories how sports serve as an incredible platform for emotional
(handling fears and frustrations), cognitive (with respect to
concentration, memorization, problem-solving, strategy, etc.),
interpersonal (interacting with teammates and authority figures), and
physical development (staying active, healthy, and combatting
obesity.) These stories also offer universal life lessons that transcend
the playing field and mirror classroom attitudes and behaviors;
commitment, resilience, adaptability, respecting authority, cooperation
and fair play. At the same time, attention was directed to realistic
concerns, including lack of playgrounds and healthy play spaces,
increased use of video games over direct interactions, bullying,
overzealous parents, specialization, and overuse injuries.

After publication, we began speaking at schools, children’s museum’s
libraries, bookstores, and on radio. This lead to an unexpected
opportunity with WBPT2, Miami’s PBS affiliate and following a year of
discussions, then raising funds, we’ve produced a dozen on-air
parenting vignettes. Each “Raising Your Game” vignette, roughly 90 seconds in length, shares time-tested and targeted advice for adults
throughout South Florida –including examples from the book,
describing ways to foster participation, practice, and progress while
minimizing a child’s feelings of frustration and dejection. Essential to
this project was highlighting the critical difference a supportive parent
or caring adult can make by showing up, showing interest, and
showing restraint. Yet, viewership could not be tracked, so a decision
was made to edit them for online viewing. To-date five can be viewed
with accompanying blogs on our website at
I welcome your comments.


Dr. Corn is a licensed psychologist who specializes in treating children, adolescents, and families in South Florida.  She is a graduate of the Clinical Psychology Program at Nova Southeastern University after completing an internship at Miami Children’s Hospital. Over the course of her 20 year career, she has also been involved in sports psychology consulting and works with parents to help them understand developmental issues with their young athletes