The conclusion of a race season can be a time of excitement, relief, and suffering for parents. The excitement comes when your young ski racers have just concluded a season that exceeded their expectations. The sense of pride and satisfaction can be palatable and reinforces why you have your children in our oh-so-demanding sport.
The relief is in simply having the long season finally over with. For many parents, this means no more schlepping up to the ski area every weekend (if you’re not fortunate enough to live the mountain life), sitting in interminable traffic, or separating from your spouse (and maybe your other children) on Fridays. It now means having some time to just hang around the house on weekends and pursue your other interests.
The suffering comes if your ski racing children didn’t have as successful a season as they had hoped. They may be frustrated, discouraged, and sad. Here are four things you can do that will help your children through this transition period and actually enable them to emerge more inspired and motivated than ever to pursue their ski racing dreams.
One of the challenges of being young is that children lack the wherewithal to see their lives beyond their immediate experiences. This is where you can lighten their emotional load in a healthy way. Where they see only the bad of their just-concluded race season, you can help them see their season in a more nuanced and, as a result, less awful way. In other words, you can provide your young racers with perspective in which you offer a more balanced view of their season.
Definitely acknowledge the bad parts of the season; the DNFs, the lost chances, the frustrations and disappointments. At the same time, help them recognize the good that came from the season. If their season was really bad, you may need to stretch quite a bit to find the silver lining, but I’m sure it is there. Help them to see the improvements they made, the small though infrequent successes, the fun they had, the friends they made, the places they went.
Finally, help them view the season from a long-term perspective. An analogy will help here. If you look at a bad year in the stock market, such as during the Great Recession, you would see a steady downward trend line in stock valuations. It would be pretty darned discouraging and you’d probably never want to invest in stocks again. That is what your young ski racer may be seeing and feeling now. But, if you look at the stock market over the last 60 years, you will see a jagged line that climbs steadily higher. This is the perspective you want your children to have about their ski racing: if they continue to invest in themselves and are patient, they can expect a very good return on investment in the future.
After a few weeks with their skis waxed and stored away, as the disappointing season fades into memory and your ski racing children focus their attention on other pursuits (e.g., school or spring sports), you can expect that their anguish will slowly recede as well. With the benefit of some emotional distance from the unsatisfying season, they may now be receptive to a gradual shift from the past to the future.
A key part of this transition is to help them analyze last season and gain valuable lessons that they can use to plan for next season. Questions to ask include:
- What did I do well?
- What areas held me back?
- What do I need to work on next season?
These lessons are important because they ensure that your children understand what caused their poor season and give them guidance in how to learn from them and not repeat them next season.
Guide Them in Setting New Goals
With a clear understanding of what prevented your young racers from having a successful season, you can now help them redirect their focus from the past to the future. They can use the information gained from their examination of the lessons learned to set some new goals for next season.
These goals can begin with realistic outcome goals to strive for, in terms of results, rankings, or new levels of race series. They should then make an immediate change to process goals that will alleviate the obstacles that resulted in the disappointing season your children just completed. These process goals should include any areas of their ski racing that they need to improve on to ensure that they don’t have a repeat of this last season, for example, physical conditioning, technique and tactics, and, of course, mental preparation.
This goal setting will, hopefully, close the door completely on the disappointment of last season and provide them with the inspiration and incentive to begin working hard toward next season.
Help Them Make a Plan
The next step in supporting your young ski racers after the race season is to help them develop a plan that will put their goals into action. This detailed plan, in collaboration with their coaches, should include a comprehensive physical conditioning program, on-snow opportunities for free skiing and gate training, and a thorough mental training program.
With clear goals to work toward and a plan for achieving them, your young ski racers are now in a position to put last season in its entirely behind them and to direct their gaze toward a successful next season.
A Final Thought
Over all, the most important thing you can continue to do to help your children to stay passionate about their ski racing is to downplay results and keep them focused on just their love of ski racing and their progress toward their goals. In this results-obsessed world in which we live, nothing drives kids from our sport more than not getting the results they want as quickly as they want. When you constantly emphasize love of our sport, hard work, and the many much more important life-long benefits that your children get from ski racing beyond the results, you protect them from those toxic messages and fuel their desire to stay and strive to be their best in our sport. And that, I dare say, is a far bigger victory than any that could be gained in a ski race.
Want to learn more about how to be the best ski racing parent you can be? Read my latest parenting book, Raising Young Athletes: Parenting Your Children to Victory in Sports and Life or enroll in my Prime Sport Parenting 505: Raise Successful and Happy Athletes online course.