Swimming is a great way for children and teens to stay fit, make friends, develop skills, and of course have fun. But on race day, both swimmers and parents get nervous since it seems that so much is at stake, whether it be a spot on the club team or a college scholarship. To ease the anxiety for you and your children, check out these strategies for nervous parents on race day and help your child have their best performance!
1. Strike a balance
Your child is looking to you for support and reassurance. Let any critiquing of their technique come from their coach. Know how your child responds to stress; some children get pumped up and use stress as a positive motivator, while other children may feel drained or burned out by stress. Try to balance your feelings with theirs: if stress motivates them, get excited with them. If stress drains them, give them a pat on the back and say some encouraging words that show your unconditional support and try to reinvigorate them before the race. If you see your child's stress getting out of control or overwhelming them, pull them aside and do some deep breathing and positive visualization techniques. Doing this together will help both of you relieve stress and focus on the next race with a clear head.
2. Lifelong lessons
Veteran swimmers say that the sport taught them valuable lessons about life and how to succeed in other areas of their life, whether it was at a job, in school, or with other organizations. Remember that your child's involvement in this sport is a learning tool for them now, and for the rest of their lives. How they handle stress and failure, which will happen, not only affects their performance and enjoyment of the sport, but can have a lasting impact on how they deal with similar situations in the future. As a parent, you've helped your child first learn to swim, put them in the right classes, and showed them how to be a better athlete. Now is the time to let them learn how swimming can help them be a better person in the real world.
3. Be prepared
One of the best things you can do as a parent is teach your child the value of being prepared. And the best way to do this is to lead by example. Help them pack their bag and snacks the night before instead of waiting until the morning of the meet. Know where the competition is being held and have an alternate route if there's traffic or an accident, and maybe even leave a little early. Don't get in the habit of doing everything for your child, but be proactive and help them plan for the big day so that they see the value in being prepared and alleviate any last minute stressors.
4. Keep calm
Don't be that parent that is screaming at a referee, yelling at the coach, or arguing with another parent. This type of behavior not only sets a bad example to your child, but it might embarass your child and add to their stress level. If you have a disagreement with any of the other adults, handle it privately in a separate meeting or an email. Don't use race day as a forum for unruly behavior. Instead keep calm and focus on your child and give them support throughout the day.
5. The big picture
To stay calm while you're nervously watching in the stands, remember the bigger picture. There's a fine line between encouraging your kids to do better and be their best, and pushing too hard. Don't beat them up over their mistakes, but instead use failure as an opportunity to improve the next time. Sit down with your child after you've left the meet and talk about what they could improve upon next time. Make it a two-way conversation and allow your child to discover the valuable lesson of self-reflection and improvement, which will help them in swimming, and other areas of their life. Offer constructive criticism and figure out where the problems are together.
Remember that a race is just a race and that at the end of the day, swimming should be a fun activity for your child where they can look forward to going to practices and competitions instead of dreading it. Stay calm and cheer your child on to success!