The family unit, whatever its make-up, can be a powerful contributing force to a young athlete’s preparation and success in sport. With the right approach, training to get all members of the family on the same page and supportive of each other, will make or break the experience.
It is said that it takes a community to raise a child. It certainly is true that it takes a family to raise a child. And I’ll add a big addition to this. In youth sports, it takes a family to raise and inspire a young athlete. Trainers are working with many more family units these days, and a “family” can be any definition you want it to be from single mom or primary caregiver to influential grandparent. Generally, with modern technology, trainers can step right into living rooms and work with families via Skype, FaceTime or ooVoo, in a manner that is as good as visiting face to face. As a matter of fact, it is face to face!
Family units need to be powerful
Working with a family unit is very powerful as you get a combined impact of the parent supporting his or her teen athlete and the teen athlete supportive of the parent in return. To give you an idea of the benefits of this arrangement in terms of sharing the training load, staying on the same high performance “page” and creating an unbeatable group dynamic or synergy, the following is an amalgam of several families I’ve recently worked with. I’ll call them the Smith family, and they have a 16-year-old son, John, who plays hockey.
Now you might think that a 16-year-old teen would be a bit non-responsive with a parent hovering in the background. And that might be the case in a program where John would have to speak about his emotional issues and flaws, but more and more systems approaches are on the market that are non-psychology and are similar to how one learns math, where the strategies of staying focused, learning new skills, forgetting mistakes and staying energized are like math functions—easy to apply and solution oriented. So, nothing is shared except sport-specific tools and a passion for the game. Simply put, John learns the SELF-empowering tools to win.
In this case, John passionately wants to play pro hockey, and the family has decided on the scholarship route as the way to go. He has incredible focus for his age and knows that other things in life are important as well, so he works hard in school.
Fortunately, his parents have the means, the commitment and the desire to support his dream, and are approaching the training as one of the necessities of sport, just as they do with his technical training and his equipment. As well, they are also intrigued that the system can be applied to their workplace. A bonus! In this case, it is the mother, Joanne, who goes to all the games and practices, so she takes on the role of participating in the training sessions.
Sharing the training load
Working with the family is an ideal situation for a number of reasons. First, it shares the training load in the session, where the emphasis during different stages of the program can shift from teen to adult. In this case, when each new tool is presented, John applies it first and then Joanne. And together, over the course of several sessions, they spiral powerfully and supportively upward into a skillful Zone. At the end of every session, their demeanor has changed significantly and they can almost feel the result of the next game. It will be good.
To this end, Joanne’s only job as spectator is to stay empowered and play the “silent” role as emotional coach—with a specific excited and consistent feel to it. She’s the ballast. And she learns to stay away from the role of technical coach, even though she played the game herself in college. That is not her job.
John’s job is to build his own powerful, excited and consistent Zone in the same manner as his mom. He learns the tools to stay focused and solidly in the Zone all practice and all game long. He is both a leader and a model for his teammates. They both learn how to lead, Joanne in support of her son’s focused energy and John in support of his teammates—and sometimes even his coach.
No room for downtime
Third, there is very little room for downtime in a sport. Both John and Joanne need to be so fired up that they KNOW beforehand that the game will be a success. And this starts well before the game or practice, on the trip to the venue where John listens to music and plays the game in his head, and in the locker room where he builds his Zone to game readiness; and where Joanne finds her Zone by listening to music in the car on the way to the game and maintains it in the bleachers by a number of new strategies that allow her to subtly but powerfully stay focused.
And even when the scoreboard shows defeat, success is measured in terms of what is learned, both by implementing the tools designed to help John recover from lapses and by his becoming more skillful to prevent mistakes from happening again in future games. Joanne’s supportive role is crucial here, as maintaining a silent, powerful and empowering presence takes some practice and special tools in moments of defeat.
This parent/teen synergy—the parent wired and ready in their role as emotional coach, and the son wired in his role as competitor—creates an energized and intimidating force. They learn to support and energize each other without a word being exchanged.
In this supportive family team, Joanne and John both accept high energy as crucial so that it elevates John’s skills and his leadership of the team. He performs well and, most importantly, understands when and why he doesn’t—so that he can fix it. He applies his new tools to everything—school and school sport—as well as in his personal life to mentor his friends or deal with bullies. His beaming self-confidence, new-found game skills and leadership skills are enough to make most parents jealous.
As for Joanne, being part of her son’s ‘team’ has been one of the most gratifying ways to participate in her son’s sport. It is empowering to them both as she can enjoy watching the practices and games and be an empowering force to help her son to stay in the Zone and to regroup when he needs to. And, the bonus is that she is also able to apply the same kinds of tools to her workplace pressures and the leadership challenges in her organization. It is a win-win process that will ultimately transition to John’s total independence. But for now, she is still learning the finer points of building their team—the Smith family team.
The sky becomes possible
Training together as a family is possible with some of the modern-day sports systems that apply empowering tools to the game, without having to divulge one’s emotional, personal or embarrassing moments. It shares the training load, keeps parent and teen on the same page and creates an unbeatable synergy. And with such a powerful family team, life is very exciting and energizing as they aim for the sky.