3 Great Ways You Can Be a Even Better Parent to Your Student Athlete

 

Girl Student Athletes

Are You “That” Parent?

Okay parents, now it’s time for me to call you out! Yes, you!

We have all seen the videos of parents fighting during a little league game. Or, see other parents degrade their child after making an error. I’m going to tell you right now, don’t be one of those parents.

Your child puts enough pressure on him/herself as it is. Don’t be the reason they cannot perform well because they’re too busy worrying about what your reaction is after the game.

If you’re wondering why your child has anxiety, you might be the problem.  It’s time to take a serious look in the mirror and ask yourself:

Am I helping my child or am I making it worse?

If it’s worse, here are some sound suggestions for helping your athlete be successful, both on the field and off.

 

Constructive Conversations

Observation: Athletes hate when parents remind them of their errors. First, and most importantly, have a conversation with your child.

And no I don’t mean one where you teach them a lesson or try to tell them what to do. Sit down and have an actual “adult” conversation about what is bothering them.

Do you remember when you were younger and wished your parents wouldn’t talk to you like you a child? That hasn’t changed. Children, especially adolescents, want to be treated as more than just your child. Show them respect and:

  • Listen
  • Be Empathetic
  • Offer Encouragement
  • Check Your Emotional Reaction

According to the TED Ideas Worth Spreading, here are a few more tips for communicating with your teen to build your relationship.

Bottom Line: Before you can help your student-athlete, you have to understand what’s going on through their eyes.

Teen Boy Athletes

Help Your Child Learn It’s Okay to Fail

Observation: Athletes are hardest on themselves. If your child makes a mistake, don’t remind them.

Believe me, we know when we mess up, we don’t need someone to tell us that it was a costly error. Also, their coach has probably already reminded them.

In your child’s mind, they’re probably thinking something worse about themselves than you are.

Bottom Line: We want our children to learn from their mistakes, not be afraid to make them.

  • Try asking them how they felt after making the error
  • Reassure them it’s okay to make mistakes.
  • Help them understand the steps to take after a mistake
  • Talk about what to do to avoid that mistake in the future

Dr. Andrew Cohen, Ph.D. and Lisa Cohen wrote an article published in ActiveKids on this topic – check it out if this applies to you.

 

Your Student-Athlete (Your Child) Wants To Make You Proud

Observation: Athletes constantly feel pressure from numerous sources. Praise your student athlete for their effort, not the outcome.

Far too often we place too much emphasis on the outcome of the sport instead of the effort. You may not believe it, but athletes could think your love is conditional if you place more emphasis on winning.

If a parent says to their child, good job after every win, but you need to pick it up after every loss, that could lead an athlete to think they’re not good enough, or they need to win in order to get your support. If you only place emphasis on the outcome the athlete will burnout by trying too hard to win instead of being motivated to be better and learn. 

Every single athlete wants to win.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an athlete who was opposed to winning. But winning does not always occur and it’s an uncontrollable outcome. Instead, place the emphasis on the athlete’s efforts.

Perfect performance and outcomes will never happen. However, the perfect effort can always be achieved.

Bottom Line: The next time your child loses a game but tried their best, remind them that effort is the most important.

Try This –

Do’s

  • I know you tried your best and that’s what matters
  • What can you work on in practice to make your swing better?
  • I love coming to watch you play
  • I’m proud of your effort, you worked really hard today
  •  

Remove these sentences from your vocabulary –

Don’t

  • You made three errors today
  • If you would have done this you could have won the match
  • What are you doing out there? You looked terrible
  • You should have placed first

 

Parents: It’s Your Turn to Practice

Parents, let’s do a little experiment.

  1. Start using the Do’s statements listed above, modified to your liking
  2. Notice the athletic performance of your child, as well as their attitude

Use these statements for practice, private instruction, games and any other activity your child may be involved in. You may notice your child feeling more relaxed when they play, having more fun, and enjoying the time they get to spend with you after games or practices.

And one final thought. Do you know college coaches are evaluating the parents as well as the athlete? Consider this perspective from USA Today January 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

Techniques to Help Athletes with Anxiety

One Thing Athletes Do NOT Want To Talk About

Anxious, Me? – Never.

“I Don’t Get Anxiety Before Games” – Every Athlete.

Athletes Don’t Experience Anxiety – Right

Oh the dreaded seven letter word: ANXIETY. The one thing we don’t want to talk about as athletes. The thing many of us claim to have never experienced. Well, busted, because if you have never felt anxious or worried, or like you’re going to pass out before a game, then you’re not human. Yes, I said it, you might as well be a robot! All of us athletes have experienced a phenomenon I like to call “Under the Lights Phenomenon.”

Athletes and Anxiety

I use the term Under the Lights Phenomenon because most competitions are played under lights. But there is also this idea athletes are placed under a microscope, constantly being watched by numerous individuals. This can be very anxiety provoking! This phenomenon can occur at any time before a game, whether it’s the night before, in the morning before a game, during warm-ups, five minutes before the start of a game, or at any point for any athlete.

What can you do when you’re experiencing Under the Lights Phenomenon?

Many of you probably already have a pre-game routine which helps you get ready for competition and ease your anxiety. Some of you may

  • listen to music
  • prefer silence
  • play a game on your phone

whatever routine you have it’s important to do that routine before every game. It is also important to have anxiety coping strategies to use during competition when you feel anxious.

For those of you that don’t have a pre-game/competition routine, or maybe your current routine isn’t working, I will lay out some suggestions to add to your routine that may be helpful for anxiety avoidance.

  • Deep Breathing
  • Visualization / Guided imagery
  • Smiling

 

Deep Breathing For Anxiety

Deep breathing does not just literally mean to breathe, we do that all the time. When I say deep breathing I mean put all of your focus is placed on your breathing.

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions
  2. Close your eyes, or keeping them open if you prefer
  3. Consciously focus on your breath

By focusing only on your breath your thoughts of anxiety start to dwindle away and you can focus on being in the present moment. Deep breathing helps athletes relax their muscles prior to competition allowing for more fluid athletic performance.

If you have never done deep breathing exercises before it might take some practice for you to be fully able to solely focus on your breath. When you’re in your deep breathing state, and your mind starts to wander remember, the goal here is to focus on your breath.

 

Visualization Helps With Anxiety

Visualization, also known as guided imagery has been a technique used extensively in the sports psychology field, with numerous studies indicating its effectiveness (Bernier & Fournier, 2010; Cumming & Ramsey, 2009; Cumming & Williams, 2012). Maybe at one point, you’ve heard about it, maybe you haven’t, but nonetheless, visualization can have an extreme impact on athletic performance, especially for those who are rehabbing from an injury.

The goal of visualization is for the athlete to again:

  • find a quiet area with no distractions
  • close your eyes

Imagine yourself pitching the best game of your life – be very specific. I want you to notice the smell of the dirt, the feel of having the ball in your hand, the way your spikes feel on the dirt, the catcher’s mitt as your target, your breath before every pitch. I want you to be able to feel your environment.

Once you have that, focus on the mechanics of each of your pitches as they come off your hand. Feel your body, without actually doing it, going through the motion of a fastball, a curveball, a change-up. Essentially, you want to go through an entire game during visualization.

I recommend this part of your routine either the night before or the morning of. Give yourself time to sit down and visualize an entire game.

I want you to keep something else in mind. Remember, in a game, mistakes will be made and the opposing team will hit your pitches so it’s important to visualize these as well. That way you can visualize yourself making the adjustments you need so you can transfer that into your competition.

 

Smile and Laugh

I know this going to sound simple and maybe even a little stupid, but I recommend you smile and laugh before your game.

Remember the reason you started playing your sport in the first place. Too often as athletes, we get so tense and we feel this need to be perfect and always perform at our best. And when we don’t perform at our best we feel as if we have failed, which then increases our anxiety.

So take the time to actually enjoy the game. Have fun with your teammates and smile. Play for the little boy or girl who fell in love with the game in the first place and you will never lose.

 

I’m planning to do this with all my blogs. I want to end each one with an activity to go along with our discussion about deep breathing.

 

Breathing Exercises For Anxiety

 

  1. I want you to find a quiet place at home, or where ever you feel most comfortable.
  2. Dim the lights a little and make sure you will have no distractions.
  3. You can lay on the floor, or sit down with your legs crossed.
  4. Start by closing your eyes and just breathing. I would like for you to try this for about 3-5 minutes. While you’re breathing I want you to focus on your breath only. Keep everything else out of your mind. As you start to focus on your breathing, start focusing on your body parts, starting with your legs. Feel the way your body reacts with every breath you take.

You might feel your mind start to think about other things, when this happens, recognize it and start focusing on your breath again.

When you are done with this exercise I hope your mind and body is more relaxed. It can be difficult for us to take the time to just breathe when our lives are so busy. However, it’s important to take some time to just relax after a hard day of practice, school, personal issues, family issues, and everything else we may face.

You may not believe it, but stress and anxiety can have a serious toll on our bodies if we don’t take the time to deal with it.

To continue on with our discussion of anxiety, I’m going to talk about the stress parents can place on their children to perform. Yes, parents, it’s now your turn to be placed in the spotlight!

Good luck!

 

Athletes with Mental Illness

WHAT’s happening in the mind of an athlete?

 

 

ask yourself “Have I had these thoughts?”

I’m an Athlete and I’m Not Okay

Athletes are Perfect Human Beings Right?

Can you Spell Athlete without Mental Health?

Athletes and Mental Health, Who Cares?

What’s Really Going on in an Athlete’s Mind?

 

 

inside the athlete mind

There is a belief that has been circling in the world of sports for as long as sports have existed. The belief that individuals who play sports are stronger than other humans (yes, athletes are also human believe it or not), both physically and mentally.

Athletes are assumed to have this unwavering ability to handle anything thrown at them, both literally and figuratively.

What happens when, no matter the amount of practice, an athlete just cannot seem to hit a curve ball? Is it because they haven’t practiced it enough? Is it because they can’t see it? There can be a number of questions raised on the physicality of an athlete when it comes to physical shortcomings.

The number one question which should be asked is:

What is going on in their mind as the ball was approaching the plate?

 

mental health in athletes

Far too often we blame a physical ailment as to why he couldn’t hit that jump shot, or she couldn’t dig that ball. The true focus should be on the athlete’s part of the body that cannot be seen and is not nearly trained enough: their brain.

Studies indicate elite athletes differ from mediocre athletes in one category: mental preparation/toughness. Let’s be clear, athletes, like anyone else, experience mental health issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD and learning disabilities.

It has never been about athletes being perfect or experiencing mental health issues. It is about the way an athlete learns to cope with these mental health difficulties so they can get to their highest achievements.

 

athlete Mental Health Statistics

Studies vary on the percentage of student-athletes with mental health issues, ranging from 10% – 30% of college athletes. There are a couple of reasons why the statistics vary.

First, the sports and mental health field is growing every day and new studies are coming out with their findings. Understanding mental health in athletes is still a relatively new field. It was not until 2013 the NCAA created the Mental Health Task Force to research issues relating to athletes and mental health. It has not been a priority in the past. Although there have been many strides, there is still a long way to go.

Second, I believe these statistics to be on the low end, meaning the percentage of athletes who experience mental health issues are probably higher. Although it is discussed more often today, it does not mean athletes are willing to admit to experiencing mental health issues.

There is still a stigma with mental health and seeking help. Athletes should be tougher than that right?

 

recognize mental health issues

Here is the good news. You’re not alone if you feel:

  • overwhelmed
  • frustrated
  • anxious
  • sad
  • pissed

Many athletes experience all of these emotions and I am here to tell you it’s perfectly normal. In fact, I would be concerned if you didn’t feel any of these emotions!

Often, society says, inaccurately, mental health issues are associated with weakness. Everyone, whether an athlete or not will experience some mental health issue(s) in their lifetime. It’s not so much about what the issue is, or whether someone else is going through something different.

It’s about the help you seek for it and what you can do for yourself to overcome it. There is strength in recognizing mental health issues and even more strength in advocating for a better mental health outcome for yourself.

 

 

Famous Athletes with Mental Health Disorders

Take a minute to read over these quotes spoken by some of the most successful athletes in the world. And take a minute to grasp the fact you are not alone. The teammate sitting next to you, the competitor you face, the coach instructing you, or the athlete on the other side of the world has been in your shoes.

“Everyone is going through something that we can’t see… Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another.” -Kevin Love

“I think as an athlete we’re taught that if we can push through anything we can make it wherever we want to go, and we’re always told to not ask for help.” -Allison Schmitt

Many of the most successful athletes in the world have experienced their own mental boxing match. We all have. We try to fight the big, bad, mental invasion forging in our brains. Thinking we need to do it alone. Thinking the outside world will believe we are weak. Instead of holding all that barrage of emotions, bring everything you’re feeling to light. Because when you bring it to light, you allow yourself to recognize it. And once you recognize it, you give yourself the freedom to overcome it.

 

 

Challenge: Work this Exercise

  1.  Grab a pen and paper, or your computer or whatever device you prefer.
  2.  Try to find a quiet area or room where ever you are reading this.
  3.  Put some music on if you like.
  4.  Have a seat with that pen and paper on the table.
  5.  Write down every emotion you have felt, both on and off the field relating to your sport, your teammates, your coach, school, family, any topic you want to think about.

Take about five minutes, or a little more if necessary.

If you want, do this with a friend and compare notes. This will give you an understanding of the different emotions every athlete has faced.

Keep this list posted somewhere.

We’ll expand on this next week when I talk about anxiety and coping strategies for practice, on the field of play, in school, and at home.