Many young athletes perform best when they are happy, positive and relaxed. It is vital as parents that we play our role to help them arrive at their trial or try-out in that frame of mind. Perhaps, this can be easier said than done as both parties may well be slightly more stressed or nervous than normal. Some anxiety should be expected as this can have a positive impact on performance. However, if this becomes too much it can have disastrous consequences.
Here are a few thoughts on what we can do to help our children arrive full of confidence and be fully prepared to give it their best shot.
The best piece of advice we can give is try not to treat it as a big event and keep all routines as normal as possible.
Make sure that our children have their kit organised well in advance and are clear about the routine and logistics. At this stage we do not want them to be worrying about anything other than their performance. They will naturally be nervous about anyway, without added complications going through their mind.
In helping our children to prepare we should be helping them focus on the things that they are able to control. Working hard, eating the right food, normal practise, getting enough sleep and thinking about how they are going to perform and conduct themselves should be high up on the list. Getting these things right will all play a positive part in any outcome.
Try not to fall into the trap of comparing our children to others prior to the event and even discussing potential opponents or people who may be challenging our child for a place in the team. This can have negative implications and may cause our children to worry unduly. Of course, if you do know about potential opponents then you may want to keep that information to yourselves.
Don’t change your child’s routine. This potentially runs the risk of placing greater significance on the event and a sudden increase in training load could potentially lead to extra fatigue or even injury. Parents need to think carefully before making any training schedule changes.
In the excitement of a big trial it can be easy to be sucked into motivating our children with some performance treats or bribes depending on how you look at it. Whilst you feel that it may be helping to motivate your child it may also be increasing the magnitude of the occasion in their eyes. To read more about the pitfalls of this type of approach please click here.
In the build-up try to keep your own body language as positive as possible. If you are feeling nervous, do your best not to show it. Keep the car journey to the event as normal as possible. It is easy for the journey to fall into complete silence with both ourselves and our children thinking about the trial or perhaps us talking too much to fill the silence. Either way or children are very adept at picking up on this. Get the music turned on, have a sing song and take it in turns to pick your favourite songs, anything to lighten the mood.
Keep your pre-trial messages the same as any other week, don’t start giving multiple instructions, commands or expectations as this can be a negative with our children trying to process all of this alongside the pressures of the trial itself.
Show them that you are excited and positive about the whole thing, tell them that you love them and are proud of them for who they are as an individual and not what they achieve on the sports field. Then ensure that your body language is consistent with this. Pacing up and down, gesticulating ferociously does not put across the image of calm positivity. Stood with an open stance, smiling and applauding is likely to have a far more positive impact on your child’s performance.
The trial is now over, you have hopefully played a positive part in helping your child arrive in the right frame of mind to do themselves justice. If your child has been successful, then many congratulations! However, if your child has missed out on this occasion then continue to read on.
Much of the preparation for dealing with disappointment can be done before the event. We should not be defining our children purely on their sporting success and their identity should not solely be inked to their sporting achievements. The importance of us developing multi-faceted individuals both in what they participate in and in their own character development is really important.
It does not mean that both of you will not be upset and disappointed but when the dust settles it should make it far easier to plan a route forward.
If your child has been unsuccessful in their trial or try-out, then there are a number of things that you can do as a sporting parent in the aftermath. To read about this in more detail then please click here.