My daughter had her first swim meet of the season over the weekend and all I can say is, “WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES!“
This time two years ago she had such terrible pre-competition anxiety that going to a competition was a very dramatic ordeal and often involved a lot of throwing up, crying and stress. This time last year, my same little swimmer had a hard time deciding if she even wanted to swim and was on the verge of calling it quits.
I am happy to say, that this year we had no puking, tears or nervous fretting prior to the first day of competition. Sure, there were still the “I'm nervous” comments and she wouldn't eat until after she had her first race out of the way, but the difference in maturity was huge.
So, why am I telling you this? Because I see so many parents getting wrapped up in the here and now with kids sports and they often forget that youth sports is a JOURNEY! Just like kids have to learn to walk, to write, to handle making a mistake at school, or how to deal with change in their daily lives, kids have to learn how to deal with the challenges they face in sports too – whether it is nerves, handling disappointing performances or handling the pressures of being successful. None of these skills come over night. They take encouragement, discussion and experience to learn.
Next time your athlete is facing a challenge or you just want to pull your hair out because you just don't understand what is going on, think of it as learning a new skill:
- Break it down – Talk with your athlete about what is going on and how the challenge can be broken down into a series of smaller hurdles or components. Give your athlete a voice and encourage them to help come up with strategies for overcoming it.
- Practice – Communicate with the coach and practice some of these challenging scenarios in practice or play them out in conversation. Make a pre-competition routine to help put your athlete in control.
- Perform – Before the big meet or game, stay calm and give your athlete actionable tasks to perform.
- Applaud – Praise your athlete after the fact for the things she did RIGHT! Talk about the things that need to be worked on further at a later time.
Sometimes it is just a little maturity that makes all the difference!