As November gets underway we have officially entered “showcase mode." Whether it's important DA games, ID combines or showcase tournaments, your child is most likely feeling a tremendous amount of pressure to perform well. As the parent of a student-athlete, your job is to walk the fine line between supporting your child and allowing them to become self-sufficient. And while the job of a parent is never easy, there are some important things you can do to ensure your child is in peak physical, mental and emotional form for upcoming showcases and other important events. Here are my recommendations for helping your child during the weeks leading up to a high-pressure competition.
Create a Plan to Cope with Setbacks
Meals and car-rides to training sessions and games are perfect opportunities for a conversation without the distraction of technology. Use this time to learn your child’s expectations for their upcoming showcase and offer guidance on how to use previous feedback to set some new goals. Goal-setting is a powerful tool that can provide a clear focus and measurable short-term steps to keep them motivated and moving forward. You can also discuss how they might handle a poor performance. If they notice they’re not playing up to their potential, what can they concentrate on and control to get back on track and ensure they stay in the game mentally? You may want to brainstorm phrases they can say to themselves during a game, or select one component of the game (ensuring they’re maintaining defensive shape, for example) to create goals around.
Be There as a Parent, Not a Coach
Remember that you are their parent not their coach, agent or trainer. Have conversations about topics other than just soccer; ask about school, their friends and their lives in general. Be 100% mentally and emotionally present during these conversations to show your child that you are there for them and think they’re special, regardless of their showcase performance. The emotional support you provide during this time will feed your child’s confidence and allow them to feel more relaxed and self-assured on the pitch.
Enforce Sleep Routines
Numerous studies and books underscore the importance of sleep, particularly for adolescents. At this important life stage, their brains are rapidly developing and need a significant amount of rest to grow. To maximize their resting hours, create and enforce sleep routines. One strategy to try is nixing the use of any and all technology (phones, tablets, TVs, computers) past a specific time each evening. The blue light emitted from these devices can have detrimental effects on our sleep, making it more difficult to fall asleep and less beneficial when we do. You’ll almost definitely get pushback on this, but be firm. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on both mental and physical performance and a tired player is unlikely to impress anyone.
Encourage Healthy Eating
To fuel their workouts and support their body as it grows and develops, teenage athletes need to be eating mindfully and healthfully. Junk food and sugary “sports” drinks are not the right fuel for high-performance and will certainly hinder your child’s performance on game day. Focus instead on providing a balanced diet of whole foods and lots of water. Johns Hopkins offers some nutritional recommendations here and the American Academy of Family Physicians provides athlete-specific information as well. Remind your athlete of the importance of hydration and pre- and post-game eating so they’ll have ample energy for 90+ minutes of intense soccer and the nutrients required to recover quickly afterward.
Recruiting opportunities can be exciting, but also stressful, overwhelming and anxiety-producing. Supporting your child physically, mentally and emotionally can help alleviate some of the negativity they may experience and further aid in developing their resilience and love of the game!
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at email@example.com.