Monday, February 22, 2010

Raising Olympic Stars – the Elite Child Athlete

Do you have a future Olympic star living in your household? Of course we are all proud of our children when they work hard and compete in sports, however sometimes there is a child that really does have the potential to be an Olympic star. How can you tell if your child has that potential?

Success in highly competitive sports seems to depend on several key factors: Preexisting talent, a strong internal drive within the aspiring athlete, and a caring and sound social support system.

Musical abilities can also help an athlete in most sports to think better and have a sense of rhythm. For instance skating, or downhill skiing require rhythm.

The IOC (International Olympic Commission) Medical Commission has adopted guidelines on training the Elite Child Athlete.

Focus on learning and skills
Accentuate the fun aspects of competitive sports
Learn to deal with the pressure to be perfect
Have an effective and safe training program
Work on psychological skills –
Emotional control
Have a balanced lifestyle
Adequate sleep
Academic development
Opportunities for socialization

In my research I found that most experts in the field of youth sports reported that winning was a relatively poor motivator for most young people involved in sports. The path to excellent performance lies in motivating them to embrace self-improvement.

When they were asked, winning never ranked high as a reason for most young athletes to participate in competitive sports. Other rewards, from improving skills to gaining recognition to getting exercise, ranked higher. The number one reason seemed to be “to improve my skills.”

Another interesting fact I learned (I saw this as a repeating theme in many studies and books) is that the most successful elite child athletes do not have parents who coach them. The parents step back and let the coach take over the sports part of their life and the parents work on the other parts. This theme is repeated over and over by both sports and child behavior experts.

I guess even though we hear about all the parents who are directly involved in their child’s training, they must be the exception and not the rule.

The bottom line is that entire sports process, especially for the elite child athlete should be pleasurable and fulfilling. Participating in competitive sports is a life experience that should prove invaluable to the young athlete as a developing, maturing person.

Do you have an aspiring Olympian in your household? Let us hear about it! Send pictures. We would love to share them with other parents.

Happy Parenting, Brenda

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