The Mother’s role in mental toughness and sports parenting
Have you as a parent … either gender works; mother or father … been to your son or daughter’s game biting your nails and fidgeting in the stands; nervous and scared as your youngster performs? Perhaps one of you is even coaching.
Your nine year old child has not been playing well. He/she is struggling and you are struggling right along with him/her. Mightily.
Today looks like a continuation of the last two games. There has already been an error in the field … no, my mistake; TWO errors … and now he/she is coming to the plate; chin on his/her chest, eyes down, shuffling; dragging the bat; looking as if he/she would pay a million dollars to be transported ANYWHERE else on the planet … if just for a moment in order to escape (what all of you BELIEVE what is going to be) the forthcoming disaster and embarrassment.
Ugh!!! “Please God”, you mumble. “Just a little hit. Contact. I’ll take some form of contact. A foul ball. Anything.”
He/she didn’t take the bat off the shoulder. The pitcher winds up. Mrs. Waggenstaffer looks up at you from three rows down in the bleachers.
“He/She’s small for a nine year old.” Mrs. Waggenstafer nods seemingly from a position of great wisdom. Her son/daughter is the supposed “star” of the team. “He/She’ll do better …” She smiles like a snake and turns away. “… next year.”
You want to crawl UNDER the bleachers … AFTER you choke Mrs. Waggenstaffer.
Here comes the pitch and …
What can you do?
You want to help but unless they let you … or your husband/wife suit up … you can’t. You just feel awful for your child … and for yourself as well; truth be known.
Mom feels bad. She wants to run onto the field, hug (sorry, can’t do that), and console her child; tell him/her that everything is going to be all right.
Dad shakes his head. “C’mon,” he barks in the general direction of the field. “Let’s be aggressive out there.” He nods emphatically, claps his hands and pumps his fist. “Aggressive.”
Which parent has the more appropriate response/reaction in this instance?
If you are dealing with these kinds of situations in your household, I have some answers. I have programs with SOLUTIONS that can fix these types of problems; for the youngster and the parents. Call me.
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Youth sports often seem to be dominated by men and boys. Just what is the mother’s role?
The mother’s role in mental toughness and sports parenting is to NURTURE.
Twelve years ago I was involved in writing, producing, and narrating an instructional DVD for youth baseball. In the process of producing the series we reached out to a lot of organizations, leagues, and vendors for sponsorship and affiliation and we got ALOT of support; Pepsi, Babe Ruth, Little League, Rawlings, Louisville Slugger, Easton, Ringor, the National Alliance for Youth Sports, many prestigious college coaches, etc., etc.
In the midst of chasing all this business down my wife came to me with a suggestion:
“You need to reach out to the moms.” Mothers rule,” my wife informed me. “Moms rock!!! Moms play a huge role in sports parenting. They make all the important decisions.”
“Huh?” I (not very intelligently) replied.
The stupid “sports is a guy thing” was clouding up my brain.
“Uh … I never thought about it. Sorry.”
“You SHOULD be sorry.” She smiled sweetly and then hit me between the eyes with a rather caustic (but strangely insightful) remark. “ Idiot!!!”
She was right and … of course they do … mothers DO “rule” that is. And rock!!!
There is a conversation in the film MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING about the role of women in families.
Toule says to her mother; “Ma, Dad is so stubborn. What he says goes. Ah, the man is the head of the house!”
“Let me tell you something, Toula.” The mother responds. “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”
I have programs that work with athletes of all ages on a variety of issues such as speed, strength and conditioning, consulting for college and professional baseball. When I work the programs mental toughness and peak performance issues?
Here come the Moms!!!
The DADS are ALWAYS supportive and equally invested in the young athletes. The dads however, seem inclined to “FIX THINGS”; PHYSICAL things; the swing, the shot, the catch, the feet, the hands, etc. The moms on the other hand SEEM to be more attuned to “what’s going on INSIDE with the young players. The moms are the ones who appear to FEEL THE PAIN. The Moms are the ones who bring the young athletes in for our mental toughness and peak performance programs.
The moms ARE in charge and for good reason.
The MOMS are the FIRST RESPONDERS.
Mental toughness and peak performance in sports is largely a matter of gaining access to an athlete’s subconscious or unconscious mind.
Because the subconscious mind is where not only “the action is …” but, sometimes more importantly it is also WHERE “CHANGE OCCURS.”
There is a very simple formula in our programs; PERFORMANCE equals POTENTIAL minus INTERFERENCE.
In the vast vast majority of instances, that “INTERFERENCE” to peak performance is caused by FEAR. PERFORMANCE ANXIETY is the very SPECIFIC name for fear in a lot of competition; sports and otherwise; music, school work, etc. Anything. This is not hard to understand. It has to do with the PRIMARY FUNCTION of our “primitive” or “reptilian” brain. That brain (we have three) has a job … and that job is very simply “to keep us alive” and the first procedure in the process of keeping us alive is to … “GET AWAY FROM DANGER.” It is this part of the brain which told us to run away from bears and lions when we were running around naked in the jungle eating berries and nuts millions of years ago.
It is this brain which tells us (pay attention; this is important) to FEAR … not just the bears and lions but … THE UNKNOWN with all of its IMPLIED CONSEQUENCES.
We no longer run around naked in the jungle (at least I don’t; not because I can’t of course but I just think that people would laugh at point at me) but we still carry and ACT/REACT off those primitive instincts. We HAVE to respond to that brain. That part of the brain is BY FAR the most powerful and even though we now live in a world filled with cell phones, and internet, and computers, and facebook, and cable tv (and no bears and lions) we still FEAR THE UNKNOWN.
This is why especially anything which has (big and important word): CONSEQUENCES ATTACHED TO IT; i.e. a baseball game … or any sporting event for example, or a musical recital, or a chemistry test, or SATs, etc., etc., etc.; consequences which generate a “fear” response.
DANGER … DANGER!!! Red lights flashing. Sirens!!! DANGER … DANGER!!!
“Oh my God.” The FEAR screams at us. “I MIGHT … strike out, miss the basket, miss the goal, flub the notes on the sheet music, fail the test, not get a high enough score, etc., etc., etc. and then I will … lose the game, not get into college, let my teammates down, let my parents down, let my coach down, etc., etc., etc. and it is also …
… why PARENTS sit in the stands biting their nails and fidgeting in order to keep the heart attack at bay when their kids are performing and also … where Moms fit in and why they (in general) perform such an incredibly important ACTION relative to the psychological development of their children in sports
The importance resides in the initial REACTION to a fear response because MOTHERS … drum roll please; here comes the important word … NUTURE.
“Nurture” … Nice word. One dictionary describes the meaning of “nurture” as “… to encourage or help DEVELOP; to CULTIVATE.”
It means that in moments (go back to my key phrase: PERFORMANCE EQUALS POTENTIAL MINUS INTERFERENCE) where performance is being “INTERFERED WITH”or, in this specific instance when performance is AT RISK of being attacked by fear and anxiety, a MOTHER’s “nurturing response” is often more APPROPRIATE at least as a FIRST RESPONSE.
Because “nurturing” can help get RID of the fear and create … quite literally … a pathway for a correct and intelligent response to the situation.
When that youngster is on the field struggling with his/her performance it is, in general the MOTHER who feels the PAIN and the FEAR whereas the FATHER tends to see only the CONSEQUENCES; i.e. the impending strike out (or some form of poor performance, the game loss, etc.
The father/coach/teacher may get angry and yell (No good. Makes it worse. Much). He may instruct for improved performance (very good). Oftentimes however, the dads will call out (well intentioned) encouragement such as “Bear down!!!”“Concentrate!” “Swing hard” “Throw strikes” “Run faster”
There is nothing wrong with this “encouragement” stuff. There are times however, (especially with younger children) when this response is well-intentioned but unfortunately INEFFECTIVE.
Because it is dealing with an “action” or a “potential action”. It is NOT dealing with the CAUSE of the problem; the INTERFERENCE; the FEAR.
The instruction; the teaching, the coaching has to come AFTER we get to the fear. The fear is literally BLOCKING the path of your coaching/teaching/instructional message to the player’s mind and to his/her body in order to perform. The body is LITERALLY INCAPABLE of hearing the mind. The mind cannot hear the message. Everything is blocked by the EMOTION.
The problem is NOT the situation on the field. The problem is NOT physical. The problem is the interference. The problem is the FEAR. The SOLUTION is NOT physical. The SOLUTION is mental
The MOM is the one who has the FIRST RESPONDER role down cold. The mom’s response is to QUIET THE FEAR; remind the youngster that he/she IS “all right” and that he/she WILL BE all right if they just can (a – CALM down (b – REASON through the fear in order to (c – MAKE AN ADJUSTMENT to the problem and (d – have the COURAGE to (e – TRY AGAIN (f – until they GET IT RIGHT.
Get rid of the fear. Quiet the mind. Make the mind CAPABLE of receiving good messages and THEN teach/coach/instruct. EXACTLY the formulas dictated by our programs.
CALL IN THE MOMS!!!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!!! Thank you for being you!!! A for being “there” for ALL of us (Dads too) wherever “there” may be.
Is this a situation that is causing problems in your son/daughter’s performance? Is it causing issues in your relationship? In your household? Is it interfering not only with performance but with what should be one of the most enjoyable times and experiences of your family’s history. I have programs that address these issues and fixes them. Call me.
The process works when we work the process so here is the process …
KAIZEN: Constant Improvement.
LEARN and GROW. Break it down!!! Slow it down!!! Do it Correctly!!!
HABITUATE: Correct habits. Do it correctly over and over and over again.
“If you are a player or parent or coach struggling with a performance issue or a coaching/teaching or even a “relationship” issue between players and coaches and parents that just isn’t responding to instruction and hard work, then call me now and let’s fix it. The tip I gave you in this article is just the start. If you’re sick and tired of competing with EITHER a MECHANICAL ISSUE that is impacting performance OR the twin gorillas; FEAR and DOUBT on your back and ready to be done with it, I’ve got a systematic process that takes care of any interference you have to the ultimate performance potential that you have seen short bursts of…and want to see it show up consistently! Our programs help make you feel great about who you are. Call me or email me right now while you’re thinking of it!” I work with clients all over the country by using video and ZOOM over the internet!!!