How to Prepare Your Child for a Competition
- Most divers do not need a pep talk from their parents before a meet. Divers usually get excited about competing and do not need to get “fired up.” Let the coach set the mood and the tone for the event.
- If your child seems nervous, help him or her focus on his or her goals or just relax. Always be positive with your comments.
- Don’t expect the coach to get the athletes bouncing off the wall before competition. Diving is a sport of relaxed focus and confident grace. Furthermore, motivation is an everyday job, not something reserved for ten minutes before a meet. Our coaches will encourage our athletes to inspire and motivate themselves regularly, for long run success in diving and potentially other areas of their lives.
- Tell your child to have fun. Diving is fun.
- Diving is a sport unlike many. It is a sport that is better performed when the athlete is relaxed. To reduce stress, it is important that the diver’s (or the parents’) self-esteem is not dependent upon the outcome of the meet or the performance of a particular dive. A poor performance at a meet is not a negative reflection on the diver, the parent, or the coach. Win or lose, a diver should know ahead of time that he or she has his parents’ support and approval. This is a tough one for parents who choose to live vicariously through their children. Don’t live vicariously through your child in sport.
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and a healthy meal before a competition.
- Be sure you know what time the coach expects you at the pool and BE THERE at that time. A season of work can be sabotaged by a late arrival to warm-ups.
- At away meets, make sure your coach has your contact info. All too often, warm-ups are changed at last minute and the team members may need to be contacted.
- Upon arrival, have your child find the registration table, check in and then go directly to the coach so they know you have arrived and tell your child to follow the coach’s directions. Coaches are very busy at meets. Remember that your child will receive individual attention when it matters most – during their warm-ups and during their event.
- For good practices and meets, divers need to eat well. Many divers have trouble eating before meets, but they should. An athlete who runs out of energy during the meet is usually going to suffer a poor performance and an overall lower level of enjoyment in the sport. At this point, it would be too late to do anything about the fatigued diver other than supply a quick fix treat. Divers should snack on smart food items long before a competition experience and at regular intervals throughout a long competitive day.
- Complex carbohydrates such as yogurt, pancakes, pasta and whole grain cereal bars or breads are good pre-meet foods the night before. Before practices and competitions, divers should avoid foods high in fat such as hamburgers, French fries and sausage. The ideal ratio of carbohydrate to protein in the diet should be about 1 to 1. Extra protein on meet days is helpful to maintain alertness and mental focus. Extra Carbohydrates at night help ensure a better night’s sleep.
How to Handle a Poor Performance
It is impossible for an athlete to give a top performance at every meet. Athletes often seem to plateau for a time when their performances seem to remain stagnant. Please consider that most of our team training plans allow the athletes to perform at their best only once or twice a year. Some of our national champion divers have been on two-year training plans that resulted in one peak performance – a national championship. However, with several competitions per season, dealing with a disappointing performance can be difficult:
- Parents should keep focus on some aspect of the competition that was positive or went well. Examples may be performing a new dive in competition for the first time or attaining better jumps from the board or spinning faster on dives.
- Allow your child to be disappointed, they will need to learn to deal with this emotion in diving and in life but offer them opportunity to cheer up when they are ready.
- Help your child see the long-term picture and how they are gaining valuable experience.
- Ask your child what they have learned from the experience and how they can better their situation next time.
- Let your child know it is ok to make mistakes, to fail. Failing is an unavoidable result of taking action in life. Athletes must develop a sense of self-acceptance when they fail so that they can learn from the experience. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. With positive support, our athletes will learn mental strategies to get up and attack the next opportunity to succeed without being bothered by failure for very long. Failure is a requirement on the road to success.
- Please accept your child UNCONDITIONALLY. Only one diver gets to finish in first place, but this does not mean all the other divers have diminished purpose. Every athlete who has showed up, put themselves to the test, and put in an honest effort has won, regardless of their place of finish. Ironically, sometimes the first-place diver has not successfully put in wholehearted effort. Relatively, the first-place diver may have less to celebrate than some others considering this factor. Coaches and divers sometimes concentrate their goals and efforts on actions that couldn’t possibly result in a first place or a point total, and it can really deflate a child to hear criticism about not scoring so well when scoring well may not have been the challenge of the day. Talk to your child and learn about his/her goals so you can better evaluate a win or a loss but provide loving support either way.
After a poor performance, please avoid saying things like
- Oh well, it’s not important.
- If only you had…
- Why did you screw that one up?
- What’s the matter with you?
- You just choked.
- We pay a lot for this and that’s all you had to show us?
- It wasn’t your fault it was the judging/coaching.
- If only the coach would have let you do another dive.
- You just don’t listen.
- You don’t want it bad enough.
The common factor in these comments is that they focus on the negative, missing the positive learning experiences of making mistakes. Also, many of these comments are directed towards things the athlete has no control over. If an athlete feels that he or she cannot control how they do, they will likely learn to give up on themselves and others. Successful athletes always concern themselves with what they are in control of and pay little attention to the rest. A parent’s positive comments can greatly help develop this perspective.
After the Event
- Make sure your child is available for any award ceremony that may be pending.
- Have your child check with the coach before leaving the pool.
- Double check to see whether they have all of their gear collected.
- Tell your child what a great thing it is to dive in competition and that you are proud of them.
- Help them to relax if they need to prepare for another event.
- Make sure they are eating/drinking proper foods.
- Don’t let your child sit in the sun or stay at the pool late if they have to compete a later day.
- Avoid the “but” comment. “You did well, but…”
- Don’t desire success more than your child desires it, but gently encourage your child to develop internal goals and dreams.