Parenting an athlete is an experience like no other! The amount of time and energy parents put in to taxiing back and forth to the rink, the pool, or the pitch for practice; sitting in the stands cheering them on at yet another game; the planning and travelling involved in memory making tournaments, the Saturday morning bottle drives; evening fundraising events; soliciting friends and family for raffles…is endless.
Along with the physical energy exerted in supporting an athlete we must acknowledge the emotional energy. As parents of athletes, you are expected to support your child unconditionally; enjoy their involvement in sport; be understanding and patient; push them but not too much; teach them about winning and losing; remain positive; be realistic…again another list that could go on and on.
The pressure parents are currently experiencing has taken on a different look, perhaps one that has increased or, at the very least, shifted.
As though it is not challenging enough let’s throw in a pandemic! A pandemic that completely unravels your planning, that removes resources that support your child in their athletic development and steals their ability to connect with peers and stay active.
The pressure parents are currently experiencing has taken on a different look, perhaps one that has increased or, at the very least, shifted. Worry and concern may have elevated which is completely understandable if not expected. Our young athletes are missing a lot of what makes them who they are and there is very little we can do about it. My goodness that sounds dramatic! Yet there is some truth to that statement and knowing the truth can allow us to figure out ways to support them.
So what can we do as parents?
- You know what support looks like. Yes, it may appear different, but support is support.
- Talk to them about what is happening – ask them how they are feeling, what they are missing, what they wish.
- Sometimes all we need is to be heard. Acknowledge that things are not how we would like them to be.
- You don’t need to fix it (thankfully because this one is beyond us!) just be with them in their frustration.
- Somewhat hesitant to include this because it should not detract from the previous but there is a time to shift to the controllables.
- Athletes are missing a lot from their regular routine, however they have never had this amount of time before.
- Spend time with family (we have actually heard athletes highlight this!)
- Spend time working on building different muscle, skills
- Spend time with friends who aren’t in sport
- Consider what you are showing them about the loss of their season
- Are you rolling with the hits or reeling from them?
There is a lot of talk in the sporting community about identity. Concern around athletes who have solely identified as just that – an athlete. We may have been given a bit of a gift in this pandemic. Okay, that may be a stretch but allow some room! Young athletes have never before been forced to figure out who they are outside of sport. They have lacked the time to explore other interests and often the opportunity to connect with people about something other than their sport.
If we shift our thinking to see the benefits of a forced break, we could end up with an incredibly well-rounded group of athletes who, for arguably the first time in recent history, have considered themselves outside of being an athlete. If we play this right, they just may end up being the most versatile group of athletes we have ever seen.
Demystifying Athlete Mental Health
The mental health of our young people is suffering. Join psychotherapists Jessica Renney and Paula McQuaid as we will take a look at what mental health means and how a minor shift in perspective can help our athletes.