Inside the Ski Racing Mind: The Do's For Ski Racing Parents
Winter has officially arrived, with the Solden World Cups just completed and the lifts running and racers getting on snow in Colorado. So, now is the time that racers will be making their final push toward the start of race season.
And now is also the time for you to begin to prepare for your upcoming season as ski racing parents. This is no small task because the life of a ski racing parent is, in my view, much more difficult than that of, say, a tennis or soccer or football parent. There’s the ski tuning, the early morning drives to races, and, of course, the freezing weather and the inevitable agony of seeing your ski-racing child ski out of a course. On the upside, at least you’re in a beautiful setting and can ski between race runs, whereas those other sport parents have to sit on the side of a court, field, or course in places such as Des Moines, Fresno, and Trenton (no offense to people from those cities, but they aren’t exactly Stowe, Winter Park, or Sugar Bowl or even Buck Hill or Hunter).
So, you need to get yourself mentally and emotionally ready for the roller coaster that is junior ski racing. Over the past year, I’ve offered you many insights and perspectives and much information that are intended to help you put on your “race face” and provide the best support possible for your little (or not so little) ski racers. But, knowing many ski racing parents, all that highfalutin’ stuff is nice, but what you may really want are clear guidelines of what you should and shouldn’t do with your ski-racing children this winter.
Well, your wish is my command. In this article, I will describe what I believe you should do with yourself, other parents, coaches, and your children to win the Ski Racing Parent of the Year award (or at least make it through the season without driving yourself and your children crazy!).
DO FOR YOURSELF:
1.Get vicarious pleasure from your child's ski racing. One of the great joys in life is sharing your children’s experiences, both their ups and downs.
2. Enjoy yourself at races. If you’re having fun, your children probably will too.
3. Be positive and calm when watching your children race. Your attitude and demeanor influences how they feel and ski.
4. Have a life of your own outside of your children's ski racing. If you have your own life that’s enjoyable and satisfying, your children will be free to find enjoyment and satisfaction in their ski racing.
DO WITH OTHER PARENTS:
1.Make friends with other parents at races. Socializing can make races more fun for you.
2. Volunteer as much as you can. Junior ski racing depends on the time and energy of involved parents.
3. Police your own ranks. Work with other parents (particularly on your children’s team) to ensure that all parents behave appropriately at training and races.
DO WITH COACHES:
1. Leave the coaching to the coaches. Remember that they are the experts and you are paying them to coach your children.
2. Give coaches any support they need to help them do their jobs better. Your children's coaches can have a really positive impact on them, so make sure that influence is maximized.
3. Communicate with coaches about your children. You can learn about your children and help meet your children’s needs when you talk to each other.
4. Inform coaches of relevant issues at home that might affect your children at training and races, for example, family or school problems. When your children head out onto the hill, they take their personal lives with them.
5. Make coaches your allies. Coaches work very hard for your children (for relatively little pay), so treat them with respect and kindness, and make sure you’re both on the side of your children.
DO FOR YOUR CHILDREN:
1. Provide guidance for your children, but do not force or pressure them. Your input is invaluable, but they need to have ownership of their ski racing.
2.Assist them in setting realistic goals in their ski racing. Young racers need your help in deciding what they should focus on and how high they should aim.
3. Emphasize fun, skill development, and other benefits of ski racing and downplay results. The chances of your children becoming superstars are slim, but ski racing can be a wonderful life experience that can positively shape their futures.
4. Show interest in their ski racing, for example, help them get to training, attend races, ask questions. Let your children know that you care (but not too much) about their ski racing.
5. Provide regular encouragement. Win, back of the pack, or DNF, always be positive and supportive.
6. Provide a healthy perspective about success and failure. Your children will likely come to define success and failure the way you do, so ensure that you’re sending them healthy messages that will foster their personal development and ski-racing achievement.
7. Emphasize process and reward effort rather than results. Ironically, if you focus on process and effort, your children will likely have better results than if you focus on results.
8. Intervene if your child's behavior is unacceptable during training or races. Establish your priorities related to be good sports by setting expectations and enforcing consequences when your children behave badly.
9. Understand that your child may need a break from ski racing occasionally. Ski racing is intense and physically demanding. Your young ski racers need time to rest, recover, and recharge their batteries during the long winter.
10. Give your children space when needed. Part of ski racing involves their figuring things out for themselves. Whether they have a good or bad race, don’t rush up to them, but rather let them sit with it alone for a while. When they’re ready, they’ll come to you.
11. Keep a sense of humor. If you are having fun and laughing, so will your child. There are few things that kill the joy of ski racing for children than a parent who is too serious and intense.
12. GIVE YOUR CHILDREN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. SHOW THEM YOU LOVE THEM WHETHER THEY WIN OR LOSE!!!
In my next article for you in two weeks, I’ll address what you shouldn’t do as ski racing parents, thus helping you avoid a midseason meltdown by yourself or your children and maintain a positive and supportive attitude regardless of their race results.
About Dr. Jim Taylor
Dr. Jim Taylor knows the psychology of ski racing! He competed internationally for Burke Mtn. Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado. For the past 25 years, Jim has worked with many of America's leading junior race programs as well as World Cup competitors from many countries. He is a clinical associate professor in the Sport&Performance Psychology graduate program at the University of Denver. Jim is the author of Prime Ski Racing: Triumph of the Racer's Mind and his latest parenting book is Your Children are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear From You.
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