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Training your athlete for a great day

Kid

Parent

Teen

Athlete

Mindfulness

Anxiety

July 17, 2023

Have you ever stopped to think about how you learned to tie your shoes? It didn’t just happen. It took someone, likely a parent, teaching you the right technique, and then practicing over and over again until you got it. 

There are many examples of mastering a skill because someone taught you the right technique. Maybe you’ve completed a marathon, overcome an injury, or learned another language. In other words, you didn’t get there overnight. Many things in life take practice to perfect.

Well the same thing goes for your outlook. We all have good and bad days. But did you know that you can actually train to have a great day? You and everyone in your family can make it happen with a little practice! 

This is a super powerful skill for you to teach your child or teen anytime they’re feeling nervous, worried, or overwhelmed by whatever life is throwing their way. With your support, they’ll learn to build new coping skills that they can turn to anytime they’re having one of those not so great days. 

How to train your brain

Training to have more great days starts with understanding how our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and interactions with others are all connected. 

Let’s take a look at an example of how this works. Maybe your child is feeling nervous about the big game that’s coming up. Their mind may begin to say things like, “You’re going to blow it and everyone will be mad at you.” Ouch! Then they avoid practice because their stomach hurts, making them feel even less prepared for the game ahead. 

Do you see how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all working together? Avoidance can be a quick fix to making the anxious feelings go away in the short term, but it doesn’t actually help us feel better in the long run. 

You can help your child or teen learn how to stay in the situation and notice their thoughts. One tool you can encourage your child to use when you’re having a tough day is to SURF the thought. When they notice anxious thoughts start to swirl, ask them to take a time out, take a few deep breaths, and just pay attention. You can talk them through SURF anytime they need it: 

Sense the Moment

Take note of any sensations that you are experiencing as this thought surfaces. This is your body sending you signals. How are you feeling? What’s happening in your body?

Understand the Thought Will Pass

Understand that a thought is not a fact. Thoughts come and go, and the best way to get rid of a thought is to think of a new one. What thoughts are you experiencing?

Reclaim Thoughts with Mindfulness

Reclaim your power over the thought by shifting your attention and grounding yourself. Try deep breathing and focusing on something that makes you feel confident that you will move through this moment successfully.

Free Your Mind of the Thought

Find a healthy distraction for yourself. Go for a walk, get some air, play your favorite game. Celebrate your hard work of moving through this tough moment.

Becoming your own bestie 

When your child or teen is having a tough day, get curious and ask them how they’re talking to themselves. Like you, they probably have an inner voice that is always chatting in their head. 

This is called self-talk, and it’s the way we communicate with ourselves. Maybe your child doesn’t even notice it most of the time. But the better they get to know the thoughts that are happening in their head, the better they’ll get to know themselves and their feelings. 

Consider sharing about a time when you were feeling nervous or worried. Maybe you had a job interview or had to speak in front of a group. Open up about how you maybe had thoughts that weren’t super helpful. 

Let your child know that once negative self-talk starts to take over, it can make us feel really awful and maybe even nervous or sad. 

By starting to spot negative self-talk as it happens, we can begin to be a little more gentle with ourselves. Ask them to think about how they’d talk to a best friend that was having a bad day or was nervous about the big game. 

Then they can start replacing that not-so-nice voice with kind words. That’s where affirmations come in! These are positive, helpful words that can help us when we are having a bad day. You can encourage your child to use them anytime they feel stressed or just need a boost. 

Giving them a go may feel silly at first, but trust us that they really work! It’s best for your child to find their own kind words, but here are some examples:

  • I am safe. 
  • It’s okay if I make mistakes.
  • This might be hard, but I can get through it. 
  • I tried my best. 
  • I am brave. 
  • I am enough.

Support your child in finding words that feel authentic to them. Bonus points if they write them down and hang them in their room so that they can see them everyday! 

Gaining a growth mindset

We all have beliefs about our skills, abilities, and potential. These beliefs make up our mindset and can lead to certain behaviors and even have a big impact on our future. 

When we have a growth mindset, we hold the belief that our abilities can be improved with hard work and the right strategies. This involves a passion for learning and viewing failure as an opportunity for growth. 

What happens when your child makes a mistake? Do they get super frustrated with themselves and give up? Or are they able to see how, with a little hard work and perseverance, they can get to where they want to be? 

Having a growth mindset can significantly impact athletic performance and personal growth. It is about believing in your own ability to develop skills, embrace challenges, and learn from setbacks. Here are a few tips for helping your child or teen tap into your own growth mindset: 

  • Encourage celebrating effort and small wins along the way, rather than just outcomes or results.
  • Remind them that hard work and consistent practice are essential for long-term success.
  • Reframe setbacks and failures as learning experiences rather than indicators of their worth or ability.
  • Encourage them to look at feedback from coaches, teammates, and mentors as an opportunity for growth.
  • Remind them to take time to notice their thoughts when they're feeling discouraged. 
  • Make it a habit to challenge negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations. 
  • Set goals that focus on personal growth and development, rather than solely on outcomes.
  • Help them break down big goals into smaller, manageable steps to track progress.
  • Teach and model the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive people. 

Training the brain to have more good days takes some practice, but it can make a big difference in how your child feels at home, at school, on the field or court, and when they’re just spending time doing the things they love. 

Remind them that getting enough sleep, eating nourishing foods, and moving the bodies can all help to foster both mind and body fitness. 

We hope you and everyone in your family is feeling more empowered to go out and have a great day! Don’t forget that your friends at Bend are here to support you all along the way.