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Yesterday I took off my coaching hat to be a supportive mum at an event in which my son (14) was throwing the javelin. I've done it quite a few times at his club and school events and alway managed it quite easily. Yesterday was different and after reflecting on it I thought I would share, as it really made me think about what it's really like 'on the other side'.
The event was the London Youth Games. It was a rainy Sunday morning when we arrived at the stadium. We registered with the Borough Sports Development Officer and then, we were on our own. There were over 20 girls and boys throwing, on rotation, 3 throws, in his group. Each round took 30 minutes, which meant the kids were 'on their own'. All hung around, hands in pockets, getting wetter and wetter in the rain, literally taking their hands out of their pockets to pick up the javelin, to throw.
With my performance coach hat on. Great opportunity for them to learn. Parenting hat on. They are cold and not enjoying it. Performance hat - they've not learn how to and taken responsibility for the gaps in the competition. Parent hat - why didn't their coach prepare them for this?
I have to say that I crumbled after his 2nd throw, which again was well below his normal, walked over and gave him a positive pep talk - relax, enjoy, perhaps think about getting moving when it's near his turn, etc. Result. He did and whilst he didnt get a great throw, it was better.
I began to think, wow, these guys are 14 and 15 years of age. Is is realistic to expect, the average 'I don't want to be different' adolescent, to be the finished article?
As a performance coach, coaching in this age group, I wondered if it would have been possible to enrich the learning for these budding athletes. Could a volunteer in this event, seen what was going on and help out? These kids are still learning how to deal with competition and whilst you can say, they will have learnt loads by getting cold and not performing to their potential, how many will not throw again? I will never know, but there was a real opportunity to guide these young athletes.
In my sport, netball, in big events, there are many oportunitites for athletes to learn, but, I do want them to perform too. We discuss and practice the 'what if's'. We try and prepare for the unknown as best we can. We put the athletes in the centre and give them the tools to control and respond to the uncontrollables. But the difference is, it is a team effort.
As a parent I have learnt, that athletics is quite a solitary sport. You are on your own, and you need to help the athlete develop coping mechanisms, that they won't need as much in a team sport. How do you do this as a parent? Support. Be positive - it would have been really easy for me to get a bit stroppy with my son. It would have been easy to diss the coach and the event in front of my son to deflect from his performance. But I didn't, as that would have undermined his part in the event.
And afterward, the big question - so what did you learn from that? My Son - 'it just wasn't my day'.
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