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Which Sports Parent Habits Groom Olympians? Lessons from 2022 Winter Olympics Medalists.

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

The 2022 Winter Olympics has had its share of drama this year. I’ve been amazed by Norway’s Gold Medal count.

Norway has earned an astounding 37 medals. 16 gold, 8 silver 13 bronze medals in the Winter 2022 Olympics alone.

Having beautiful snow top mountains all year round is an obvious advantage. But with a population of 5.3 Million people, my gut was telling me there’s more to this story.

Snowboarder Winter Olympics 2022
Snowboarder Training for Winter Olympics 2022

I was looking for their mental edge. What was their winning formula?

What I found is - Norwegians’ “joy of sports - propelling them to dominate the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“The country prioritizes equal participation through age 13 and, after that, surrounds the best prospective athletes with top coaches.” Explained the head of Norway’s Olympic delegation. Norway’s youth sports model has preserved the way I remember U.S. youth sports back in the 80’s and 90’s for kids ages 5-12. When I was growing up joining a travel teams was a brand new sports model and everyone still played multiple sports. What Norway doesn't allow also sets the tone for youth sports. Not only does Norway not have travel teams, Norwegian Regional and National championships don’t start until 11 or 13 years of age.

In recent years, emphasizing winning over having fun has frustrated the youth coaches that I know. Especially when parents are perpetuating the mindset of winning at all costs. “My players are crying off the field because their parents are constantly coaching them from the sideline. It’s making them freeze and they are getting confused.” A field hockey U11 youth coach told me this past fall. “I’ve asked the parents to just let the kids play, they are only 10 years old.”

Unfortunately, these complaints from coaches are becoming more common. I’ve been giving webinars to parents on behalf of coaches about considering a bigger picture perspective. There are long term risks to over-coaching your child. It robs the fun out of the game. Although parents intentions are honorable. I’ve seen first hand the unintended consequences while working with a high school sophomore who was talented in boys lacrosse. “I just freeze up in front of the net and am afraid to shoot the ball.” Marcus explained. The bottom line: his parents were showing him footage after his games pointing out his flaws in an attempt to help him correct his mistakes. This plan completely backfired.

Instead of playing Div III like he originally wanted, Marcus decided to quit all together after his senior year in high school. “It’s just too stressful. I’m not having fun anymore.”

According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it's just not fun anymore.”

If you are a parent and might be inching over that bright line between coach and parent role - think twice especially for kids under 15.

Yes, I’ll admit there are always exceptions to these 10 tips. There may be times you need to tell your child to snap out of it. When I was a sophomore in high school I tried out for the Garden State Games Field Hockey team. I was tired that day and was not playing my best. At lunchtime my mom came up to me and let me have it. “Robyn, I don’t know what’s up with you today but you need to get your head out of your butt and start playing like I know you can. There’s no way you’ll get selected the way you’re playing. Step it up!” That lit a fire under my butt and I made the NJ Garden State Game because of her intervention. Take these guidelines to heart. If you aren't doing these then it can't hurt to try a new strategy. Maintaining the fun in sports brings more joy into our lives and without that, what's the point? If you are a sports parent who has an athlete with a specific issue - set up a free consultation to chat about how I can help.

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