Rhett Smith 75: Kid’s Athletics, Parental Pressure, and Grit

RSP75One of the populations I love working with in my practice is athletes. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a large variety of athletes from professionals to amateur, from middle school kids all the way up to a middle aged runner like me. And in my time with athletes several themes around athletics have emerged that tend to be the central focus of our counseling time together.

 

Those are:

  • performance anxiety
  • anxiety and stress due to pressure from overbearing parents
  • depression from not achieving an athletic goal or from not being able to participate in the sport because of injury.
  • training the athlete for more positive self-talk and visualization to increase performance.

 

These 4 issues seem to crop up the most and I have had a lot of success using the Restoration Therapy model developed by Terry Hargrave. Even though I initially used it only with couples I have expanded it’s use to individuals, families, organizations, and now athletes. I feel that it’s core tenets, especially the importance of emotional self-regulation and working to identify and act out of one’s truth, rather than out of one’s negative cycle, have been extremely helpful.

 

In this episode I briefly mention the components above, but really spend the bulk of the episode diving into some of the work of Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and what she has to say about anxious parents and kid’s athletics. In the episode I read from about 2-3 pages worth of material to give you an understanding of what Duckworth is communicating when it comes to grit and our kids, while at the same time commenting on some of the things I have seen in my practice.

 

I echo Duckworth’s and other’s findings that children who are allowed autonomy to choose what sports in activities to engage in, and who have the freedom to explore a multiplicity of sports, while at the same time not engaging in them all year round, often fare better than their counterparts who specialize early and play all year. The latter often leads to a lot of burnout (often by high school or college), and it short circuits the development of passion because kid has not had the ability to pursue their own interests, but have often been pursuing the interests of the parents.

 

I want to leave you with one quote from Grit that I read in this episode:

 

Sports psychologist Jean Cote finds that shortcutting this stage of relaxed, playful interest, discovery, and development has dire consequences. In his research, professional athletes like Rowdy Gains who, as a children, sampled a variety of different sports before committing to one, generally fare much better in the long run. This early breadth of experience helps the young athlete figure out which sport fits better than others,. Sampling also provides an opportunity to ‘cross train’ muscles and skills that will eventually complement more focused training. While athletes who skip this state often enjoy an early advantage in competition against less specialized peers, Cote finds that they’re more likely to become injured physically and to burn out. (page 107 on Kindle).

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Link to Episode 75

Resources and People Mentioned in this Episode

Terry Hargrave
Restoration Therapy
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Angela Duckworth
Benjamin Bloom
Jean Cote

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Plano, Texas. I work with individuals, couples, and families regarding a number of issues from marriage therapy, anxiety, depression, infidelity, faith, relationship strengthening, and athletic performance. If you are interested in scheduling a session with me, or having me out to speak, please contact us via email or phone (469-304-9022).

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