Helping your child excel at a sport that you both love can be an incredible experience as well as one that yields negative and disappointing results. Depending on your approach, your days at the lake with your smiling child may be limited. Managing their enthusiasm without becoming overbearing is a struggle for many parents. Kids obviously need encouragement and assistance to keep them goal-oriented, but the challenge is to do that while keeping it light and without impeding their carefree nature. With help from David Benzel, a sport-family coach and eight-time national water-ski champion, we set down some guidelines to help you maximize your child’s potential without compromising the fun factor.
Push Without Pressure: Called optimizing by Benzel, your goal as a parent is to find the right balance of support and push, without adding any pressure to perform. It can be a tricky concept, especially as your child begins to see success. Try not to let your dreams and expectations eclipse your child’s athletic appetite or goals. Allow performance pressure to come from within the child, not from your ego.
Collaborative Goal Setting: Teach your little ripper the benefits of having goals by verbalizing and setting them together. Setting goals will help your child maintain focus throughout the season, but only if the child is equally invested. Observe your child’s work ethic to get a sense of the “hunger” factor. It will let you know how committed your child is to improving. Your child’s hunger is not something for you to manipulate. Attempting to do so is a strategy you will regret. Remember, a mouse doesn’t run a maze because of the cheese. It runs the maze because it’s hungry! Parents who try to make their kids hungry are usually responsible for driving them away from sports.
Outsource Some of the Coaching: Even the greatest skiers in the world look for assistance when it comes to coaching their own kids. The parent-child relationship is sometimes strained when Mom or Dad wears the coach’s hat all the time. A coach will be able to work with your child without the emotion that’s inherently present when you take on the coaching role. That’s not to say that you can’t help your child’s skiing; just don’t be afraid to get assistance from time to time. When you’re in the coaching role, work hard to be as patient, nonjudgmental and encouraging as the best-paid coach in the world. Keep in mind that what sounds like coaching to you may sound like criticism to your child.
Fundamentally Fun: Like any other competitive sport, the competition portion of your child’s skiing can get in the way of the reason he or she fell in love with being on the water — the pure fun of it! Therefore, it’s important to keep your mood light and to find the humor in repeated falls in the lake. (“Are you snorkeling again?”) Play games during practice sessions. Make up metaphors to describe skiing concepts. (“Should a slalom turn resemble a sports car turn, a station wagon turn, or a school bus turn?”) When skiing is fun, practice sessions, careers and relationships last longer.
Show Complete Confidence: Attempts to push your child through a performance slump can have a disastrous effect on your relationship. More than any other fear, children fear disappointing their parents. If you appear to be distraught over temporary performance issues, the problem will be magnified in your child’s mind. Conversely, if your child can see that you have total faith in his or her abilities in spite of the current problem, slumps disappear as quickly as they show up. It may be nerves, fatigue or frustration holding the child back, so be prepared to talk about the situation but not dwell on it.–Trent Finlayson
Go to growingchampionsforlife.com for more information on creating confident competitor.