May 7, 2015
Question: How much should I push my young athlete to succeed without burning him out on the sport?
Today I address the first question in a series of questions that were posted to me from various wrestling parents across the country. While conducting my research, I discovered that parents’ questions could be categorized into 10 different categories, the largest being that of a category that I like to call Parents’ Push. This first question deals with this topic.
The parent’s question was “How much should I push my young athlete to succeed without burning him out on the sport?” This is a great question, and it is very common among parents, especially those who have previous experience with wrestling. In a situation such as this one, perhaps a better question that the parent can ask themselves is “Why do I feel that I need to push my child to succeed in this sport?” By evaluating your own motives, you may come to the conclusion that your child doesn’t necessarily need to be pushed in the way that you were originally thinking.
There is a great deal of difference between leadership and dictatorship. Sometimes as a parent, it is easier to be the dictator. We are constantly reminding our kids to be nice and get along with their siblings, clean up after themselves, brush their teeth, and the list goes on. We are constantly telling them what to do, and sometimes they listen, other times they don’t. It’s more the nature of kids being kids than anything else. However, when it comes to wrestling, there is generally more effort that goes into a wrestling practice than goes into cleaning a room. Albeit, I have had to clean up after my children and it was very tiring. The point is that wrestling practice and competition can be much more painful than picking up a handful of toys. Not only kids, but adults as well are more apt to endure painful things if they have someone to do it with them. There is something to be said about having a partner to go through everything that you are. So instead of trying to push your child, perhaps, you could try leading them instead.
Leading your child is an effective way of using your influence to get them to do something that they may not otherwise do on their own. Let’s take for example a scenario that could play during a random evening at home.
Dad: “Hey son, why don’t you go to the garage and do some pushups and pull ups to get stronger. There are only a few more weeks before the big meet.”
Son: “I don’t want to dad. I’m tired. I want to watch the rest of my show.”
Dad: “You really should go workout. Don’t you want to win?”
Son: “Yeah I want to win, but I want to watch my show too.”
Dad: “Well, if you want to watch the rest of your show, then you need to go workout. You can’t watch your show until you do your pushups and pull ups!”
Put yourself in this situation. If you’re watching a show, and all of a sudden someone wants you to go do pushups and pull ups in the garage, how excited are you going to be about that? I know that even when I was training for the Olympics I didn’t want to drop everything at a random moment to go do pushups and pull ups in the garage. Not many people do. So forcing your child to go workout for the sake of working out doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, if you lead an activity and participate with your child in it, they will respect you much more, and they will put more effort into the activity.
Here’s the example switched around a little bit.
Dad: “Hey son, let’s go out to the garage and do some pushups and pull ups together. I am feeling pretty strong today. I bet I will beat you at pushups.”
Son: “I don’t think you can beat me. I’ve been working really hard this season.”
Dad: “Well I’m feeling pretty good. I think I have your number today.”
Son: “Ok! You’re on!”
After a few sets of pushups and pull ups…
Dad: “Good job champ! I can’t believe you beat me today! You will do great at the meet coming up in a few weeks.”
Son: ” Thanks dad. That was a lot of fun. Next time I’m going to do 100!”
Now this scenario may be a little too nice and neat, but I think that you can at least see the difference between a parent who is pushing their child, and a parent who is leading their child. Being a leader and setting the example is much more effective than sitting at the throne and demanding that your subjects comply. Even if it does require a little more effort and patience, it is worth it.
In terms of pushing your child too much, try to reframe how you’re looking at it. Don’t push them. Work with them, and see how far you can help them go. If your child gets to the point of burnout, they may be feeling bored with the training so change it up. Or maybe they don’t like the stress and anxiety of competition every weekend. The best way to try to get to the root of the problem is to ask good questions. If your child seems like they are burned out, ask them what is it specifically that they don’t like about wrestling right now. They may not even know, but by going through a series of questions, they may actually be able to discover what it is that is bothering them. At that point, you can try to help them find a solution to their problem. If you run out ideas, ask the coach or other parents. They may have had a similar experience previously that they can share with you to help you work through the burnout with your child.
Wrestling is a tough sport. By being a leader to your child, you can help them progress beyond where they are now, and hopefully help them to avoid any burnout as they continue to advance to higher levels of wrestling. By working with your child in these areas, you can both find a way to enjoy the sport and strengthen your relationship with one another.