Mental health issues experienced by Olympic athletes offer a glimpse into the stress & pressures our children face from youth sports.
Weight in Gold HBO sports documentary
Mental health issues for Olympic athletes
It delves into the debilitating depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, and other mental health crises that can plagueOlympic athletes on their quests for gold, regardless of their level of acclaim
Intense training, hours, singular focus to the exclusion of other things like friendships, family time & vacations; fear of taking even 1 day off
I’m aware of benefits of kids playing youth sports: teamwork, learning a skill, exercise for your body, win & lose, sportsmanship, see body for its function vs just appearance, make friends with similar interest, creates a tribe
Menatl health issues for youth athletes & why
Overuse injuries have been rising: Sports specialization and not following the youth sport participation recommendations may increase the chance of overuse injuries; female athletes more frequently specialize in a sport at earlier ages and sustain more injuries than males
Whole life structured around their sport; when quit b/c of injury or graduate HS, not know how to structure their days on their own
Must grieve this as a loss, a process, take time to journal what they learned about self, gained, life lessons they want to take with them, things they want to leave behind
Knew their place by their ranking, their numbers and times, accolades from coaches and parents, now not sure how they are doing, sense of confidence and standing must come from within
Do activities for YOUR reasons
Do things for YOUR reasons; what do you want and WHY?
Body image: see selves as fat when really muscular; compare their muscular legs to toothpick friends; distorted body image
Stress from parents and coaches and recruiters and college prospects: MS & HS girls want to quit b/c they are burned out but afraid of disappointing parents, coaches, teammates
Value achievement over character; adds pressure, anxiety about measuring up and winning and pleasing adults, depression if fail
What can parents do?
Balance: sports with music, arts, jobs, family time, alone down time, time to follow other interests
Make sure kids are pursuing sport b/c of their reasons vs pleasing us or not disappointing us, “Why do you love soccer? Painting?
Listen to them if express burnout, be heard and understood, let them choose activities and levels
Need for breaks, family vacations, normal camps
Choose coaches with good intentions
Refuse to get caught up in the current rat race of college scholarship or bust, being the best, doing same sport year-round, focus on winning and being on the best club teams
Parents need to set the tone, family intentions (TJ & hockey), OK to say no, derive benefits w/o the costs
Be aware of your child’s mental health, look past medals to how they are feeling & coping (like grades after divorce)
Have safe place/person to talk about their feelings, worries, fears; just talking about it is therapeutic and healing, they are not alone
Contact Dr. Jordan: www.drtimjordan.com
If you want more information about your child’s emotional life, check out Dr. Jordan’s online course: Parenting girls: The challenges girls face today with their feelings and friends and what they need
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