Being involved in sports can have its ups and downs. And just as your child may experience streaks, there may be moments where the fall into slumps.
When our kid falls into a slump, we want to know how to help get them out of it as quickly as possible. It’s heartbreaking to watch our children struggle with failure and lack motivation. However, we need to recognize that pulling them out of a slump may take time and patience.
Here are some tips on how to help encourage your child if they are going through a slump:
Encourage them to talk about their feelings
If your kid is in a slump, they may be feeling angry, stressed, overwhelmed and a lack confidence. They get stuck in those feelings, and this is why they lose the desire to function. By encouraging them to talk about these feelings, they have a channel to release these negative emotions. Hopefully, the more they talk about it, the lighter they feel. And by acknowledging the slump, you’re taking the first positive steps to move beyond it.
Don’t pressure them
When kids throw tantrums, the best parental advice has always been to ignore it until it passes. However, when your child is in a slump, they’re going through something much deeper; they are in emotional distress. Now is not the time to ignore them. And it is certainly not the time to pressure them into “getting over it.” Forcing them to dismiss their emotions may only worsen the situation, and they may fall deeper into a slump, thinking that there is no one to support them.
Be patient and find the right time to get them to open up about their feelings. Failure can be frustrating, and it shouldn’t be approached lightly, especially as your child has taken it to heart.
Help them to focus on the positive
Falling into a slump means that there was a time when your child may have experienced outstanding performance, and now that they’re not, their confidence is suffering. This insecurity snowballs to the point that they feel sadness and a lack of motivation. By reminding of the better days, they realize that it’s not impossible for them to get there again.
Rather than teach them how to avoid failure, guide them through the process of setting healthy goals. By focusing on how to positively approach success, the fear of failure becomes secondary. Help them redefine the kind of experience they wish to have while participating in sports.
While winning can feel incredible, remind them of all the valuable lessons, skills, and friendships that they gain from playing sports regardless of whether they win or lose.
Most people struggle with their body image. Society is quick to judge and criticize, and we find ourselves constantly conscious of how we look. We see celebrities and professional athletes, and they become the standard for the ideal body.
However, despite having fit bodies, it may surprise many to learn that athletes are often the ones most conflicted with body issues.
Many athletes struggle with finding peace with their bodies. The emphasis on achieving the optimal body shape and size to play at peak performance is prevalent in sports culture. They find themselves making unhealthy body comparisons in not just the sports environment but the societal one too. They compare their bodies with their own teammates as well as the competition.
And unfortunately, much of the pressure that athletes receive about their bodies come from their coaches who push them to reach a certain weight in order to be at peak performance. The ideal weight is different for every sport. Athletes are feeling the pressure to be leaner or gain more muscle mass to be faster or stronger.
Another factor that can affect athletes’ body image are revealing sports attire or uniforms. This issue has primarily affected female athletes. Uniforms that are tight fitting can cause women to compare their bodies with their peers and opponents. You’ll find these revealing uniforms in swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, and track and field. Noticeably, the female uniform is much tighter and shorter than the male counterpart in some of these sports.
Sports attire that conform tightly to the body increases body consciousness, leading athletes to feel dissatisfied with their body. And when they are unhappy with their body image, they become susceptible to eating disorders.
Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are not uncommon in athletes. Ron Thompson, Ph.D., a consultant psychologist to the Indiana University Athletic Department and specialist eating disorder treatment says that “eating disorders occur in all sports, but sports with the greatest risk for eating disorders include those referred to as ‘lean’ sports.” Lean sports are sports that have a weight-class requirement or the belief that a low body weight or lean body is a competitive advantage. Lean sports include gymnastics, diving, rowing, ballet, running, cycling, jockeying, wrestling, and martial arts.
The problem is that athletes relate their bodies to skill and performance. Sports culture dictates that they can only achieve athletic success once they hit a specific weight or achieve a particular body composition in order to be high-performing athletes. While there may be truth behind this, it doesn’t help athletes in accepting their bodies as they are.
Remember the identical twin Harvard rowers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss from the 2010 movie The Social Network about the founding of Facebook? The six-foot-five-inch “Winklevii” are the popular example for any coach who has been blessed with guiding the athletic performance of twins.
While only 2% of the world’s population are twins, only 10% of those, or 0.2% are identical twins. Famous sports twins in recent years included NFL stars Ronde and Tiki Barber, seven-foot hoopsters Brook and Robin Lopez and tennis pros Bob and Mike Bryan. Some have even made it as NFL coaches, such as fraternal (not identical) twins Rob and Rex Ryan.
But it’s the Winklevii who made the largest impression on a matched pair of athletes who are rising high school seniors in New Jersey. “We looked up to the Winklevoss brothers, they were an inspiration,” says 18-year-old Shane McGeehan, sitting beside his identical six-foot-three, 235-pound brother Brennan. “In fact, in eighth grade we started rowing because they rowed.”
The McGeehans both bench press 290 pounds, squat lift 350 pounds and dead lift 450. Befitting their impressive physical dimensions and skills, they now play football and rugby, in nearly mirror positions. In football, Brennan and Shane play inside and outside linebacker on defense, tight end and fullback on offense, respectively. And in rugby, Brennan is a loosehead prop and Shane a tighthead prop, the two outside positions in the three-person front row of a rugby squad. “We’ve always played sports together on the same team,” says Brennan. “Basketball, baseball, flag football and soccer, tackle football, rugby and crew from 8th grade to 11th grade.”
Coaches and opponents of identical twins will testify about the unique challenges presented by two athletes who are each other’s body-double. Mistaken identity is only the first problem. Shane McGeehan knows. “We found out the hard way that we had to make sure coach knew which one of us was which. So in practice, if we were wearing the same shirt, we’d have to do things to wear different clothes or colors.” Brennan adds, “We also confuse the opposing team a lot, sometimes on purpose.”
There are other, more vexing problems. “The hardest thing about coaching twins,” Shane explains, “is that you expect them to be exactly the same. But we have different strengths.” Each agrees that Brennan, for example, is more physical. Shane is faster. And which one is easier to coach, you ask? “In terms of coaching difficulty level, we’re probably the same,” Brennan claims. “While we each have different skills, we’re both pretty good listeners and learners. And we each have equal respect for our coaches.”
And while the McGeehan twins acknowledge they present a unique puzzle to their sideline guides, they argue that the advantages of having twins on your team out-weigh the disadvantages.
“I’ll give you an example,” says Shane McGeehan. “In our first rugby tournament, I looked up the field and saw the field as if I was seeing it through (my brother’s) eyes. I saw an easy lane for him and I just instinctively gave him the ball and he scored a tri easily.” Brennan joins in, “Yes, in that game we both gave each other an assist. It helped that I didn’t see anyone on the field as big as Shane.”
Shane adds some advice for parents of twins. “Have them play the same sports and on the same teams, because you’ll never have a better connection than with your twin. We have the best connection of any two we’ve ever seen.”
The McGeehan twins credit their father as their inspiration for driving them to aspire to be the best on their teams, and both parents for helping them appreciate the value of good citizenship. The twins, for example, now volunteer at a local clinic for aids patients in Asbury Park, NJ.
For college, the pair want to go to the same school. “After all, the longest we’ve ever been apart is the two minutes between our births,” quips Shane. The two want to play rugby in college. Schools on their short list include Lafayette College, Boston College and Fairfield University.
As a reminder for spectators of games involving twins, the duo have some savvy advice. “Keep your eyes on the twins,” Brennan says. “Brothers like us have a crazy connection. You’ll see some amazing plays. We’re two people, but sometimes we play as one.”
Playing sports is excellent for your child’s physical development. But did you know that beyond that, sports can play a crucial role in improving their social skills? Here’s why:
Improved Communication Skills
Communication is the foundation of any good relationship.
Our ability to communicate effectively and appropriately is how we relate to others and welcome them to understand us. It can be as basic as remembering peoples’ names to engaging in thoughtful conversations. We encourage our kids before they even learn how to talk, how to communicate.
Team sports such as football and soccer are ideal activities for learning about communication. To effectively perform as a team member, our kids will need to relate to the members of their team and coach. They learn about complex plays in sports and how they can communicate this to their teammates on the field or court. And beyond that, they learn how to engage with people in general.
Knowing How to Be a Team Player
As adults, we are asked at job interviews if we are team players. They’re certainly not asking if we know how to play sports; rather, the interviewer wants to get a sense of your ability to work well with others.
Some children know how to approach a group and ask to join the fun; for other kids, this doesn’t come to them naturally. Sports is the perfect channel for kids to learn how to approach others and work with them. They learn about the parts that they play. Are they a leader or a role player? They learn about the value of being both when it comes to team sports which they can later apply in life.
Confidence and Self-Worth
Discovering how to assert yourself is one of the most challenging skills kids should learn. Just as there are aggressive children; there are kids that are more vulnerable and will often be bullied for it. Sports can help build a child’s confidence and prepare them for later life. Team sports will teach kids the difference between being aggressive and assertive. The competitive atmosphere of sports is a good training ground for building one’s confidence to achieve a goal.
As they start to see their skills improve, their determination to succeed is increased, and there is a boost in their self-worth. Furthermore, being part of a team instills a sense of camaraderie in kids. This shared sense of purpose gives children something to strive for. And having a purpose is incredible for a kid’s self-esteem.