Sports Parenting: Conversation With A Young Figure Skater

Young Skater: WWWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! THAT WAS A HORRIBLE COMPETITION! I STINK AT SKATING! I NEVER want to skate AGAIN! I FELL on my AXEL! And I FELL on my OTHER axel! And then I FELL on my FLYING SPIN! I did them all in the warm-up perfect! AND THEN I FELL! ALL THAT HARD WORK FOR WEEKS AND MONTHS FOR NOTHING! I was HORRIBLE! WWWWWWAAAAAAAHHHHH!

Sports Mom: (hug hug huggity hug)

Young Skater: WAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

Sports Mom: (hug huggy hug hug)

Young Skater: Waaaah!

Sports Mom: (hugging hug huggity hug hug) Are you done feeling miserable?

Young Skater: WWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Sports Mom: (hhhuuuuuuggggggggg) Okay, you have five more seconds to feel miserable and then we're going to talk. 5...

Young Skater: WWWAAAHHHH!

Sports Mom: 4...3...

Young Skater: WAaaaaaahhhh.

Sports Mom: 2...1.

Young Skater: waah.

Sports Mom: Done.

Young Skater: *sniff*

Sports Mom: Okay. Now. Let's talk about what happened.

Young Skater: I was HORRIBLE! I STUNK! I fell on my axel and I fell on my OTHER ax...

Sports Mom: STOP!

Young Skater: *sniff*

Sports Mom: So?

Young Skater: I have bad luck.

Sports Mom: Listen, Honey, I'll admit that there is some luck involved in sports, but really you have more control over what you do out there than you think. I know that might stink to hear at first...

Young Skater: That stinks to hear!

Sports Mom:
...at first. But if sports were all luck, the athletes would just get together and throw dice to see who wins. Or at the Olympics the skaters would just pick names out of a hat for the gold medal. They don't do that, do they?

Young Skater: No.

Sports Mom: No. They don't. What do the Olympic athletes do instead?

Young Skater: *sniff* Compete. *sniff*

Sports Mom: And how do they make sure they do their best at the competition?

Young Skater: They practice?

Sports Mom: And?

Young Skater: They practice and practice and practice. But I DID practice! And I still stunk and I fell on my axel. Yuna Kim didn't fall at the Olympics! Evengi Plushenko didn't fall!

Sports Mom: Well, Evengi Plushenko has his own problems.

Young Skater: MOOoooooOOoooooOOM!

Sports Mom: Yes. Of course. You have to acknowledge what didn't go well. But everything in today's program didn't stink. You did some good things, right? Some great things! And the more you concentrate on the bad, the more you think about only those things, that's all you become.

Young Skater: Harrumph.

Sports Mom: Don't you read the posters on the gym walls? "Whether you believe you can do it or believe that you can't do it, you are right?" and "Never let a win get to your head or a loss get to your heart. " Remember those?

Young Skater: *sniff*

Sports Mom: I'll take that as a "yes". And remember how it isn't quite so bad to come in second or third place knowing that you did your best and that the skater who won first did her best?

Young Skater: *sniffly sniff*

Sports Mom: And remember how it feels to win a soccer or softball game when you know you might have won because the other team wasn't playing their best game? That's not always a fun competition, right?

Young Skater: *sniffle*

Sports Mom: You owe it to yourself and to all those other skaters out there to not give up or give in after a bad skate! You need to help make it a fun and even competition by making sure you'll do your best next time...

Young Skater: But I stink! I fell on my axel and I...

Sports Mom: and by making better what can be made better by improving your program in practice. There is some luck, sure. There could be a big rut in the ice, or your blade could fall off, or some judge might be looking for artistry over jumping skills or vice versa, or Tonya Harding's ex-husband could whack you in the knee...

Young Skater: Or an asteroid could hit the rink.

Sports Mom:

Young Skater: Well, it could!

Sports Mom: Or an asteroid to hit the rink. And you might get a deduction for that. I think it's actually in the new Figure Skating Code of Points.

Young Skater: It is?

Sports Mom: Yes. Anyway. The good news is that even if you have the gene for "stinks at skating" - which you don't - you can still work hard and improve. Maybe some people have to work harder than others to get even a little bit good at skating - or math or music or making friends or not being so nervous before a competition or a test - and that might not seem fair.

Young Skater: No, that doesn't seem fair.

Sports Mom: But instead of believing that everything that happens to you in life is just bad luck, isn't it better to choose to believe that you have some power to work hard and become even a little bit better?

Young Skater: An asteroid hitting would be pretty bad luck.

Sports Mom: Stick with me here.

Young Skater: Yes. It. Is. Better. To. Choose. To. Believe. That. I. Have. The. Power. To. Work. Hard. And. Become. Better.

Sports Mom: Good. Now. You told me what you need to work harder on. Now tell me what you did today that was good.

Young Skater: Nothing. I stunk. I fell on...

Sports Mom: *firm but loving glare*

Young Skater: *sigh* Okay. Uhm...I didn't flutz my lutz.

Sports Mom: Good! That's one! Now, two more.

Young Skater: I had a strong free-arm position on my back catch-foot spiral.

Sports Mom: Wonderful! That's two.

Young Skater: Annnnnnddddd...my combination spin was solid and my knee was straight on the sit spin

Sports Mom: Yes!

Young Skater: My foot work was pretty good, too. Oh! And my split jump was HUGE! I was really flying on that!

Sports Mom: Fine. Now let's talk about...

Young Skater: I did an AWESOME forward spiral, too. I held it so long! And I finished in time to the music!

Sports Mom: Okay...

Young Skater: I usually end before or after the music, you know? And, WOW, I felt so GOOD going into that axel! I was WAY HIGH in the air! And...

Sports Mom: OKAY! Yes, okay!

Young Skater:

Sports Mom: That's what I mean. Stuff that went well, and...?

Young Skater: Stuff to work on.

Sports Mom: Right.

Young Skater: But, Mom, I do work hard.

Sports Mom: You do. And it's your choice whether or not to work harder. You've learned a lot already. You have become so much stronger, so much more skilled than that first day you stepped out on the ice when you were a little six-year-old girl.

Young Skater: I remember. I wanted to jump and spin even on that first day.

Sports Mom: And look how far you've come. All that practice and hard work.

Young Skater: *unfrown*

Sports Mom: And fun.

Young Skater: *smile*

Sports Mom: But, Honey, you don't have to work harder on this skating thing if you don't want to. I'll always think you're the bees knees and hug you every single day. I think you're fantastic even for trying. Even if you want to skate just for fun and stop right here with the early morning practices. You and your sister and your brother are all amazing kids.

Young Skater:
I know.

Sports Mom: I'll always be proud of you.

Young Skater: MoOOom.

Sports Mom: And I love you.

Young Skater: MOOoooOOOooooOOOOMMmmmM!

Sports Mom: Well. I do.

Young Skater:

Sports Mom:

Young Skater: Mom?

Sports Mom: Yes?

Young Skater: Can we go to the rink Monday morning before school?

Sports Mom: Sure. If you choose to.

Young Skater: Good.

Young Skater:

Sports Mom:

Young Skater: If an asteroid did hit during a competition, would the skaters who already skated first still be considered for a gold medal?

Sports Mom: I bet Evengi Plushenko is wondering the same thing.


11 comments:

OmegaMom said...

I need to print this out and memorize it, so I know how to talk to a gymnast who doesn't do so hot on her meets. I bow at the feet of the pep talk Goddess...

And watch out for those asteroids!

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I hadn't heard about Plushenko's behavior---that is terrible! And, I love your dust-her-off-and-pick-her-up talk.

Kath said...

You both so totally rock. She's so lucky to have you. Not that it has anything to do with luck, of course - it's all about the hard work, on both your parts.

XO
Kath

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I am linking to this for the next time I have to talk either of my kids through an athletic or artistic disappointment. How did you keep your cool w/o just saying, "I can't talk to you anymore!!"? This was awesome!

Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas said...

Awesome post. Awesome mom. Much better than the talk I had with the 6YO after she ran her scooter and her face into a pole. My talk was more like, "Well, at least your front teeth haven't come in yet, because that hit would've totally broken them off and we'd be at the dentist right now. See! It could have totally been worse. Now, wipe off that blood and get rollin, sister!"

Yep. You're a much better mom.

Ice Mom said...

Yay! Thank you for not being a psycho skating mom!

I think you're fantastic even for trying. Even if you want to skate just for fun and stop right here with the early morning practices.

Ice Mom

Jozet at Halushki said...

Weeeeelllll...this is version 452 of this speech. Somewhere around attempt 356, I started getting a bit better, i.e. no grinding teeth or smacking my head against the rink boards while other parents and coaches looked on in sympathy and empathy and with their own welt marks on their foreheads. ;-)

JM said...

Exactly what Kath said, but she said it first. You both rock.

lildb said...

hey, will you be my parenting mentor?

too late. you already are.

Sarah said...

Right , just need to rejig that for mini-basket, insert a few "ouffa"s and we are good to go !!!

Ta very mucho.

LOOK ....ASTERIOD !!!!

(chortle)

kgirl said...

Tell Young Skater that she is a superstar - I fall trying to turn around to get to my hot chocolate, and my free arm position SUCKS. And tell Sports Mom that she is hilarious, but that Evgeni Plushenko's biggest problem is actually his hair.

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