Photo Credit: Tucker Marshall
In my recent ski racing articles, I’ve focused on how racers can use the fall to get maximally prepared to ski their best when race season begins. Well, with winter approaching, another stakeholder in our ski racing community also needs to prepare for the race season’s demands: Parents! As I can attest firsthand, being a ski-racing parent is no walk in the park. It is demanding mentally, emotionally, physically and interpersonally.
So now is the time for you to prepare for the upcoming season as ski-racing parents. This is no small task because the life of a ski-racing parent is much more complex than that of a tennis, soccer, or football parent. There’s the ski tuning, the early morning drives to races, the freezing weather and the inevitable agony of seeing your ski-racing child ski out of a course on the first run after spending hundreds of dollars to get them there.
On the upside, you’re in a beautiful mountain setting where you can ski before and between race runs. In contrast, imagine the joy (said sarcastically) of those other sport parents having to sit on the side of a court, field, or course in places such as Des Moines, Fresno, and Trenton (no offense to people from those cities). Still, they aren’t exactly Stowe, Winter Park, or Sugar Bowl (or even Buck Hill or Hunter).
So, you need to mentally and emotionally prepare for the junior ski-racing rollercoaster. Over the past few years, I’ve offered you many insights, perspectives, and much information intended to help you put on your “race face” and provide the best support possible for your little (or not so little) ski racers. But, knowing many ski-racing parents, all that highfalutin’ stuff is nice, but what you want are clear guidelines of what you should and shouldn’t do with your ski-racing children this winter so that both you and your children come out of the winter not only surviving but thriving.
Well, your wish is my command. In this article, I will describe what you should do with yourself, other parents, coaches, and your children to win the Ski Racing Parent of the Year Award (or at least make it through the season without driving yourself and your children crazy!).
DO FOR YOURSELF:
- Get vicarious pleasure from your child’s ski racing. One of the great joys in life is sharing your children’s experiences, both their ups and downs.
- Enjoy yourself at races. If you’re having fun, your children probably will also.
- Be positive and calm when watching your children race. Your attitude and demeanor influence how they feel and ski.
- Have a life outside of your children’s ski racing. If you have a life that’s enjoyable and satisfying, your children will be free to find enjoyment and satisfaction in their ski racing.
DO WITH OTHER PARENTS:
- Make friends with other parents at races. Socializing can make races more fun for you.
- Volunteer as much as you can. Junior ski racing depends on the time and energy of involved parents.
- Police your ranks. Work with other parents (particularly on your children’s team) to ensure that all parents behave appropriately at training and races.
DO WITH COACHES:
- Leave the coaching to the coaches. Remember that they are the experts and you pay them to coach your children.
- Give coaches the support they need to help them do their jobs better. Your children’s coaches can have a positive impact on your children, so make sure to maximize their influence.
- Communicate with coaches about your children. You can learn about your children and help meet their needs when you talk to each other.
- Inform coaches of relevant issues at home that might affect your children during training and races, for example, family or school problems. When your children head onto the hill, they take their personal lives with them.
- Make coaches your allies. Coaches work very hard for your children (for relatively little pay), so treat them with respect and kindness and ensure you’re both on the side of your children.
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DO FOR YOUR CHILDREN:
- Provide guidance for your children, but do not force or pressure them. Your input is invaluable, but they need to take ownership of their ski racing.
- Assist them in setting realistic goals in their ski racing. Young racers need your help deciding what to focus on and how high to aim.
- Emphasize fun, skill development and other benefits of ski racing and downplay results. The chances of your children becoming superstars are slim, but ski racing can be a wonderful life experience that can positively shape their futures.
- Show interest in their ski racing; for example, help them get to training, attend races and ask questions. Let your children know you care (but not too much) about their ski racing.
- Provide regular encouragement. Win, back of the pack, or DNF, always be positive and supportive.
- Provide a healthy perspective about success and failure. Your children will likely come to define success and failure the way you do, so ensure that you send them healthy messages that foster their personal development and ski-racing achievement.
- Emphasize process and reward effort rather than results. Ironically, if you focus on process and effort, your children will likely have better results than if you focus on results.
- Intervene if your child’s behavior is unacceptable during training or races. Establish your priorities for being good sports by setting expectations and enforcing consequences when your children misbehave.
- Understand that sometimes your child may need a break from ski racing. Ski racing is intense and physically demanding. Your young ski racers need time to rest, recover, and recharge their batteries during the long winter.
- Give your children space when needed. Part of ski racing involves their figuring things out for themselves. Whether they have a good or bad race, don’t rush up to them, but rather let them sit with it alone for a while. When they’re ready, they’ll come to you.
- Keep a sense of humor. If you are having fun and laughing, so will your child. Few things kill the joy of ski racing for children quicker than a parent who is too serious and intense.
- GIVE YOUR CHILDREN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. SHOW THEM YOU LOVE THEM WHETHER THEY WIN OR LOSE!!!
In my next article, I’ll share what I don’t think you should do as a ski racing parent to help you and your children avoid a midseason meltdown and maintain a positive and supportive attitude regardless of their race results.