#183: What To Say When Your Athlete Is Super Hard On Herself

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Wondering how you can support your athlete when she’s overly self-critical? This episode’s for you!

Being a sports mom is a unique and challenging journey, especially when you find out that your young athlete is being too hard on herself. This situation can leave you feeling helpless and wondering if you’re saying the right things. You must be wondering, “What can I do?”

In this episode, I share some practical advice and heartwarming stories to guide you through these tough moments. Let’s get started!

Nicole’s Story: A Success Story

First, let’s celebrate a win from our community. Nicole, a dedicated mom, shared her daughter’s triumphant experience at her first basketball tournament with a new coaching team. Coming after a tough previous season, this success story is proof that positive support and mental strength training can have a big impact. It’s a combination as delightful as peanut butter and chocolate, resulting in remarkable growth in confidence and leadership!

Understanding the Challenge of Negative Emotions

Many sports moms find it very hard to witness their daughters struggling with negative emotions. This discomfort often comes from our own experiences and how we were taught to handle emotions in our youth. When our daughters face challenges like a tough loss, lack of playing time, or feelings of inadequacy, our instinct is to fix things quickly. However, rushing to positivity can inadvertently lower their long-term confidence.

The Importance of Trusting Emotions in Building Confidence

Even if you don’t fully understand them, remember that your daughter’s feelings are totally valid and normal. Dismissing these feelings sends a message that she shouldn’t trust her own emotions. Confidence is deeply rooted in self-trust – when we try to minimize her feelings or rush her to positivity, we’re actually shaking the foundation of her confidence.

Imagine having a terrible day yourself. You wouldn’t appreciate someone dismissing your feelings, right? What you’d want is someone to acknowledge your experience and ask how they can help. This empathetic approach is exactly what our daughters need from us.

Practical Strategies for Effective Communication

As a parent, navigating the world of sports involves more than just cheering from the sidelines. It’s also about understanding and effectively communicating with your young athlete, especially during those moments when they are overly critical of themselves. Below, I share some practical strategies to enhance your communication, ensuring that your support not only uplifts, but also empowers your athlete in their journey.

  • Reflect and Report

When your daughter shares her frustrations, reflect her words back to her. This shows that you’re listening and acknowledging her feelings.

  • Validate Emotions

Recognize the emotions she’s experiencing. Validation can be incredibly comforting and healing.

  • Offer a Choice of Support

Ask her if she needs you to just listen or if she’s looking for advice. This empowers her to take control of the conversation.

  • Avoid Catastrophizing

When she starts to spiral into negative thoughts, gently remind her that while her feelings are valid, the situation might not be as dire as it seems.

  • Ground Yourself

Be aware of your own emotional reactions. Understanding your feelings can help you provide the support she needs.

The Role of Mental Training Skills

Let’s be honest: Athletic challenges are inevitable. But, how an athlete processes disappointments, losses, and bad games can make all the difference. Equipping your daughter with mental training skills is crucial. These skills help her to process events productively, understand that mistakes don’t define her, and build resilience.

Empowering Your Athlete for the Future

It’s important that you create an environment where your daughter feels safe to express her emotions and knows that her feelings are valid. This nurturing approach not only helps her in the present but it also provides her the emotional intelligence and resilience she’ll need throughout her life.

Final Thoughts

As a sports mom, you play a vital role in your daughter’s athletic and emotional development. Remember, the key is to hold space for her feelings, be mindful of your own reactions, and ensure she has the skills to navigate the highs and lows of sports. With patience, empathy, and the right strategies, you can help your athlete grow into a confident and mentally strong individual. You can do it!

Episode Highlights: 

[00:00] Helping athletes overcome self-criticism and build confidence. Learn more about the challenge of athletes being overly critical of themselves and how sports moms can help them navigate this experience.

[02:09] Helping athletes cope with negative emotions. Discover how parents’ own experiences with processing negative emotions may influence how they respond to their child’s emotions, and that this can lead to unintentionally reinforcing negative patterns.

[04:28] Supporting children’s emotional well-being. Learn more about the importance of allowing your daughter to process her emotions.

[09:13] Helping athletes process emotions after disappointment. The importance of recognizing and validating an athlete’s emotions, rather than dismissing or minimizing them.

[11:18] Supporting athletes through mental challenges. Strategies for athletes to communicate with their parents, as well as tips for moms of young athletes to help them navigate their daughter’s emotional struggles during athletic events.

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