#94: Helping Your Athlete Navigate Disappointment

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Whether we like it or not, all athletes are going to face “disappointment”. So, if it is inevitable, how can we help our female athletes navigate through disappointments? 

As an athlete, disappointment is a constant part of the athletic journey. Knowing though doesn’t make it easier. Getting through disappointments is a hard task for the athletes and their parents. 

In the past weeks, we recently talked about disappointments inside our sports mom inner circle, a group for moms of the athletes going through our Elite Competitor Program, and we specifically talked about what to do when your athlete didn’t make it to her dream team. 

How do you show up as a parent in that situation? 

There are powerful parenting analogies that I shared with the moms in that talk, and I wanted to share that with you today. So, if you’re looking for tips on what to say and do when you’re female athlete is facing disappointments, this is for you.

The Lawnmower Parent

Some of you have probably heard about the “lawnmower parent” analogy. This analogy stemmed from the “helicopter parent” analogy, which is a parent that’s always checking in and doing things for their kids. It’s an analogy for an overly involved parent. 

The lawnmower parent does almost the same thing, it’s that kind of parent that cuts down any obstacles in their child’s way. Just like a lawnmower, they mow all the things that could be in the way of their child’s path, to make it easier for their child. 

It is the kind of parenting that takes away the opportunity for a child to experience what they need to experience. Our children should experience hard times for them to learn and grow. It’s a way for them to gain confidence.

I understand how moms don’t like to see their daughters hurting, but taking away the chance for their daughters to experience hard times will make it harder for their daughters to navigate life in the future.

When they turn into adults, they’ll inevitably face harder difficulties in life than what they’re facing in their sport at the moment. 

Your daughter needs to develop the skills to navigate through hard times. Getting them into sports is actually a good training ground for them to develop the skills they need in life. So, don’t be a lawnmower parent, don’t try to cut down all the obstacles in their way.

The River Guide Parents

The “river guide parent” analogy was birthed from our trip to Costa Rica. A couple of months ago, we went on a mom-daughter retreat to Costa Rica with a group of athletes and their moms. We went for a canyoning adventure in a big jungle rainforest canyon. 

We rappelled down seven waterfalls, and none of us in the group has the professional skills to do it. So, we had our guides to help us. The guides supported us as we went down the waterfalls. 

But here’s the thing — they GUIDED us, they DIDN’T DO it for us. 

They supported us and told us some tips we could do to get through. They supported us just enough to make sure we were safe. They didn’t do it for us, instead, they showed us how to do it. They’re looking out for our safety but they also let us struggle, slip, and learn. 

It’s a perfect example of how we can show up for our kids when they’re struggling. Just like the river guides, we can be there for them without taking away their chance to experience disappointments. When we allow them to go through it, we are actually developing their confidence and the skills they need to navigate through disappointments on their own.

After the trip we had together with the river guides, I felt confident about being able to do something really hard and challenging. Just like me, your daughter would feel more confident, stronger, and empowered once she gets through the hard times.

So, be the river guide parent in facing disappointments. 

The Victim Mindset Trap

Don’t take away the opportunity for her to build her confidence through disappointment. Allow her to experience those emotions because confidence comes from trusting ourselves. So, let them feel sad, and don’t invalidate their feelings by saying “It’s okay” or “don’t be sad”. It’s valid to feel sadness when you’re disappointed. We have to allow her to sit with those emotions. 

Don’t go into a victim mindset with her. Oftentimes when we try to fix things, we blame other people to make our daughters feel better and that’s a wrong move. Whenever parents do that, they’re actually teaching their daughters NOT to take ownership over what’s going on in their lives. As much as possible, avoid blaming other people. 

We don’t even have to talk about it. We just have to sit there with our daughter’s emotions and allow her to experience them. Allow her to process, and then after a certain amount of time, we can start to guide her forward. 

Moms who invest in their training to learn how to support their daughters through their athletic journey do better. 

“Children do better when their parents do better.”

Moms equipped with how to navigate through these situations become better guides and support for their daughters. They know what to say in their female athlete’s ongoing training, in pre-performance, during competition, and even after the competition.

When we know how to support her during all four of those phases, she is going to be stronger and more confident during each of them. So, it’s worth it to invest in the opportunity to know what to say in these situations and know what to do.

Athletes who have the competitive advantage also have moms who are doing and saying the right things to support them. 

To be a better parent, learn to let her experience disappointment, don’t be like the lawnmower parent who removes all the obstacles in their daughter’s path. Invest in training to be that river guide parent, and support her while allowing her to experience, learn and grow.


Helpful Links:

  • Join our FREE training for Sports Moms – How To Strengthen Your Athlete Daughter’s Mental Game Without Being Pushy Or Saying The Wrong Thing.

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