Today’s Topic: How to Help Your Athlete Who Doesn’t Want Help
Hi everyone. Welcome to our special Saturday edition of Facebook live. I am going live several times this week. My last live was about helping an athlete overcome fear this summer. There are three phases that you can use – June, July, and August, to really maximize and come out in the fall ready to rock. This live today is for the parents. If there are athletes listening, great, but this one’s really for you parents who are wondering, “Am I screwing up my kid? Am I part of the problem? Am I the reason that my kid is not rising to their full potential?”
I can really relate to this. As a parent of a budding young gymnast, I am constantly, even from my place of knowledge, constantly second-guessing, thinking, “Am I stressing her out? Am I the reason why she’s weird in class? If I wasn’t there, would she do better? If she wasn’t worried about what I would think would she do better?”
That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I’ll give you a little background on me if you are just getting to know me. I was a gymnast and I retired at age 14 because of fear. That’s why my whole driving force in my career, in my life, is to help 12, 13, 14, 15-year-old athletes who are up against fear or who are not living to their potential. I want to help those athletes who are talented and have all of this potential, but they’re not living up to it because of their mind.
I want to help those athletes to be able to start thriving again or begin thriving so they can enjoy their sport and then, ultimately, have life lessons that can carry them through the ups and downs of college, career, of their own families so that they’ll have the tools they need to thrive in life.
That’s why I’m here. That’s what I do. I’m a high-performance coach. I work alongside four other amazing coaches here at Complete Performance Coaching who specialize in that age group in aesthetic sports, but we also work with all kinds of sports. It’s mostly gymnast figure, skaters, divers, kind of those scary sports.
We also have an amazing online community, which is a full online mental training facility that is on demand. There are six different courses that take you from shaking in your boots, can’t get anything done, to high-level, pre-collegiate, pre-elite – getting the mental skills in place to really rock it at those higher level competitions. We have the whole gamut that you can go through online. We also have a parenting course in there.
My personal favorite part of the community is our weekly live trainings where the athletes come on, share what they’re going through, and ask questions. I lead trainings specifically tailored to what they’re going through. They get my one-on-one coaching, but in a really amazing, magical group environment where they can all support each other.
Now I’m going to dive it into some parenting hacks. These are some things that I’ve learned through learning how to be a good counselor that has allowed me to be a better wife, a better listener, and ultimately a better mother. I have learned these tricks of communication that help me be a better human. I’m going to share some of those with you and then I will also take questions.
Perfectionism Getting in the Way
I told you a little bit about my story and now I want to talk to about my personality as an adolescent and a teenager. This may or may not sound like your athlete, but this is what I’m coming from. I’m an intelligent person who likes to figure things out on my own. I don’t want to be told what to do. I am smart and I know that I can figure it out, and I have always operated that way to my own detriment. When I was struggling with fear, I did not ask for help, other than, “Can you please spot me again?” But even then I would just freeze up and fail and balk and freak out because I didn’t want to need help.
I was a perfectionist and I was capable and everyone said I was talented and I had really nice lines. I was so flexible, so I was like, “What’s wrong? Why can’t I figure this out? What is wrong with me?” And I had also equated when I was not succeeding in gymnastics that I was not okay because I’m a gymnast and if I’m not doing gymnastics well what’s the point? I am not okay because my identity was so wrapped up in my sport, yet I couldn’t ask for help because I was so stubborn because of my own darn intelligence.
I also liked to blame other people, like my coaches were being mean, or my coaches weren’t pushing me hard enough, or all these other kids are so much younger and smaller and better and more talented than me, therefore, oh well what’s the point? Eventually, I ended up giving up at around 14. I’m not really painting myself this nice picture.
Unable to Ask for Help
I was a great kid and I tried hard and I loved my sport and I was sweet to my teammates, but this was what was going on inside of me. I had this fear and I couldn’t ask for help. This followed me into my young adulthood. I would tell myself, “I’ll figure it out, I’ll figure it out, I’ll figure it out,” and I ended up running myself ragged trying to figure life out. Then, things would crash and burn. I’d blame other people, and there I was, this person who just wanted to have a good life and just wanted to be happy and to help people. But I was so scared all the time and I did not want to ask for help. I wanted to figure it out.
If any of you have athletes like that who are just a little stubborn, who are smart and they just want to figure it out in their perfectionist way, and they’re tightly wound, don’t worry. There’s hope because I have emerged through this. I mean, I’m still working through it because I’m still human, but this is what I want to give you all – the ability to help your athlete or maybe yourself. I have a feeling parents with kids like that probably have a little bit of this going on for themselves. If that’s you, I want you to drop your shoulders, take a breath, and take life as it comes, which allows your athletic greatness to shine through or your parenting greatness as it may be.
How You Can Help
So here is how to help an athlete who does not want to be helped. Now you can see it crystal clear. This kid’s got potential. This kid is so good, they’re such a nice kid. They’re so smart, they try so hard, but they’re just not living up to their potential. Maybe they melt down in games or in competition, or they melt down in practice, or they get afraid and they’re in tears on the way to practice, and all you can think is, “This kid is so good, what’s the problem? What’s the hold-up? Why is this so miserable? Should we just quit?” I get that all the time. “Why are we doing this? Why are we spending the money? Why are we traveling? Why are we investing our whole life into the sport if the kids seemed so miserable?” And then parents, we’re like, “Well, we should just quit,” and then you mentioned that and then the kid’s like, “I don’t want to quit,” and they’re in tears even more. They’re saying things like, “You don’t believe in me. Why don’t you believe in me and want me to quit? My parents are going to make me quit! Now the expectations are even higher than if I don’t get it together. My mom’s going to make me quit or my dad’s going to make me quit. Eh, stress, right?
We have a great question coming in right now. This question is from Chris. She says,
Q: What do you do if your child wants to quit? She’s terrified of backhand springs.
At what point do you let them quit? Now that’s different, right? The kid is saying, “I can’t deal with this. This is too much. It’s too hard.” Here’s what I say to people who come and join the PerformHappy program or who come and work with me one-on-one and they go, “What are the results? What can we expect? Is this going to work?” I say, “How bad does the kid want it?” And if they don’t want it bad enough, then it’s going to be a really long road.
If they want it more than anything, I always bring up Samantha Peszek as an example. She’s an Olympian from the ’08 Olympics. She competed level four twice. She did level five twice because she was afraid of her backhand spring. She lost her back handspring for a year and a half. She couldn’t go backwards on beam, but she wanted it. She wanted to go to the Olympics and she wasn’t going to let it stop her. She had to ask for a lot of help – help from her coaches and help from her parents. She had to ask for modified assignments when her brain just would not let her go, but she didn’t give up and she didn’t stop asking. There were days where she would go, “Okay coach, I can’t do it on the high beam. Can I do four times the assignment on the low beam?” And luckily she had a coach who she communicated with well, who was willing to accommodate her because the coach knew, “This girl wants it. This girl works hard. I’m going to give her whatever I can to help her be successful,” and she made it all the way. She went to the Olympics, she competed for UCLA. She won the all-around at her last meet and the NCAA championships.
Perseverance Pays Off
So she did it! This kid who had fear did it because she wanted to, because she believed that she could do it, and that’s the thing. Chris, if your daughter doesn’t believe it’s possible to get through, it’s going to be a long road and it’s going to be difficult. However, if there’s any little hope in there that maybe she can get through this, then stick with it.
Fear Doesn’t Have to Stop You
A lot of parents will say, “I’m going to force her to stick with it and not quit out a fear,” and you know, I can go both ways on that. I think it is great to be able to get through your fear and realize how powerful you are because every single athlete who is struggling with this has the power to get through it. I have seen kids who haven’t done a backhand spring in three years come through and they’re doing Yurchenko vaults, which is a backhand spring up the vault and they’re doing these amazing things. Kids who couldn’t let go of a flyaway, a dismount on the bars, are doing Jaeger’s, these big, let go release moves. The fear does not have to stop you, but what you must have is the willingness to get out of your comfort zone and you have to want it and you have to want it bad.
If you don’t want it, then that’s a great conversation to have with your parents. And here’s my story. I quit out of fear. I regretted it, and I went back and started coaching at 15. I coached for almost 20 years and I’m still in the gymnastics field because I love it! My story is my biggest asset today.
Was it wrong for me to quit? I don’t know. You know, it got me where I am. There’s this open-mindedness as a parent that I recommend that it guide you, that you’re open. Ask yourself, “Okay, what’s going on? What’s going to best serve my athlete, my daughter, in becoming the best human she can be,” and either way, if you succeed, you learn. If you fail, you learn. If you keep going, you learn.
This is our next chapter – what did we learn from this? What can we take from this to help you to be a better human instead of feeling like we have to make them? I don’t know what your daughter needs, but ultimately that quitting decision has got to come from the athlete. I know athletes who have had their parents make them quit and then they talked them into coming back later because they loved it so much and they felt like they were set back. It was this deep seeded resentment that they had a really hard time letting go of, that their parents forced them out when what they really wanted was a magical quick fix.
They want to do just magically get the skill back and be happy again, which it’s not magical. It takes effort, but it’s completely doable if they follow the path and they want it bad enough. I hope that helps. Chris.
Three Reasons Athletes Get Stuck
Moving along, there are three things that get athletes stuck, at least three main ones: negative thinking, avoidance, and that’s out of fear. It’s not typically that they’re avoiding because they’re lazy or because they realize they don’t want to do it, it’s more like their brain is going, “Oh look, what’s that over there, a squirrel,” and then next thing you know they’re not doing this skill. Their brain is having them avoid something.
I’ve seen soccer players who would just can’t get the ball or don’t want the ball. They’re avoiding the ball because they don’t want to fail or they’re avoiding the skill or they’re avoiding the dive or whatever it is, depending on the sport that you’re in. The third one is giving up. That’s when the hope goes away, when they realize, “Oh my gosh, are they thinking I’m the only one who can’t get it together? All these other athletes are so much better than me. I’m a mental case. I’m the worst. What’s the point?” Or, they’ll get into their practice and they’ll be like, “Okay, today’s gonna be a good day,” and then they start to feel that failure happen. The avoidance kicks in, the negative thinking fires off, and it just drains them of their energy, and then they’re thinking, “What’s the point?” At that point, they just want to get home and bury their head under the covers.
Now, the thing about those three things is that their habits have been worked into the brain, the negative thinking, the avoidance and the giving up. Those are the habits that feel like you’re failing. They get piled on and piled on and piled on. They become automatic. Unless you consciously and actively start to rewire your brain, that’s going to be the default. That default is such a miserable place to be for athletes, and then for the parents who are watching it happen.
There are ways to start to recalibrate your brain toward more optimism, more open-mindedness, and toward calculated risks. Instead of avoidance, you take calculated risk, little teeny ones that you can be successful that, that allow you to keep going.
Then, you can also start tapping into your big motivation. That why factor, why do you do it? Why are you putting yourself through this? Why are you taking those uncomfortable calculated risks? You really have to know. Is it because you want to get better, because you love it, because you want to get to college, because you want to be in the Olympics, because you want to stay with my friends?
Whatever it is, you get rooted in that and then you start working on the other things, which is where the online trainings can come in handy. You’re starting to teach the skills to rewire those habits.
So – if your athlete is not living up to their potential, should they just quit? Well, I’m going to say no, especially if the athlete is saying, “I don’t want to quit,” then take their word for it.
Here are some suggestions that I’ll give you that to get through this very frustrating, difficult time without losing your mind as a parent. The biggest source of stress that I want to touch on really quick is parental expectation. I was on a consultation with an athlete and we were talking about working together one-on-one, and the mom mentioned no less than three times the amount of money that figure skating costs. Oh my gosh! How much pressure is on this kid? I brought it up. I said, “So wow, that’s expensive, huh?” And if the kid was like, “Yeah, I know my mom is always telling me how expensive this is, so if we’re not going to do it well, then what’s the point?”
Holy goodness, that poor kid shouldn’t necessarily feel the pressure of the financial obligation on her shoulders, because then guess what happens to her skating? She gets out there and thinks she has to be perfect. She’s thinking, “This is costing hundreds of dollars. I have to be perfect,” Instead of just going stroke, stroke, glide, jump, pull in, land,” which is what she loved to do when she was seven, but now she’s 15 and she has this weight of the family on her shoulders. I’m sure the parents did not intend to put that pressure on the kids, but it’s there and often, even the best of the best parents who are that cushy warm place to land, they don’t put pressure on their kids. They say, “We love you no matter what. You don’t have to do it. We care about you. I don’t care if you fall a million times, we’re going to celebrate your effort.” Even the parents who are doing the very best, textbook, everything I recommend, their kids still can be like, “Oh, I don’t want to let down my mom,” and then they tense up, their skills get weird, then they fail, and then their identity is locked up in it and then they feel like a failure even though the parents are like, “Good job Kiddo.” The kid rolls their eyes and says, “That was not a good job.”
Show Them Love
That’s the first thing you can do as a parent. See if there’s a way that you can drop the pressure coming from you and remind them how unconditionally they’re loved. Let them know if they go out there to skate a program, for example, and fall seven times, that you’re going to love them and hug them and love them like crazy and nothing will change the fact that they get to come home and sleep in their bed. You’ll feed them dinner and you love them and you’ll send them back the next day if they want to go.
This will allow the athlete to just breathe out. You might think, “Of course they know I love them unconditionally,” but it’s worth globbing it on when sport pressure is up. Say things like, “I love you and I’m proud of you. No matter how much you fail…” and some of your parents are going to be like, “I’m not going to say that. They can’t fail. I’m not going to pay all this money for them to fail.”
Well, if that’s what’s on your mind, then you may be part of the problem. Just putting it up there, because ideally, you will just be this unconditional love factory that is happy to be there at practice and happy to drive five hours to the competition and happy to support your kid because you’re proud of their effort. I know some of that’s going to take a little acting, but see what you can do.
So the first thing is to watch what pressures are coming from you, either overtly or covertly, or pressure that your kid might be making up in their mind. Talk them through it and go, “Hey, are you feeling pressure about this, because I want you to know it’s not there. It’s not there from us.”
Then there’s this “talent” pressure. I actually hate the word talent. I use the word skilled or strong or capable because talent implies that there’s this finite amount. A lot of kids that get stuck are in this mindset that there is a finite amount of talent that they have, and if they hit a wall, it means their talent has run out. It’s a trap. People will say, “She’s so talented. Why can’t she just get it together to compete like she practices?”
She hears “I’m talented”… “but maybe I’m not that talented.” Instead of effort, effort, and progress, effort and progress, that is all that a parent should be focused on – effort and progress. “Hey Kiddo, I know you fell seven times out there, but I saw your heart was in it and you’ve been working really hard and it’s going to come together. I believe in you.” You probably don’t even need to say that after the competition because all they want is food and a hug and nothing about the performance whatsoever, but that’s what you notice. Say, “Hey, you were working hard out there today. I’m proud of you. Good job. I love watching you skate,” or, “Good job. I love watching you perform.”
Those are the types of things that you say, and then you leave it instead of saying, “Gosh, you’re so talented. I don’t know what’s the problem here? You’re skilled, you’re capable, but most importantly you work hard and that’s what’s going to take you the distance.” I’ve worked with talented athletes as a coach and as a mental coach and I worked with motivated athletes and committed athletes and the ones, of course, if you’ve got all three, you’re in business, but if you are less talented but more motivated and more committed, you’re going to make it farther any day.
So that’s what we want to foster – the motivation, the commitment, the excitement, the happiness, that fire inside for the sport. Just because working hard makes you get better, not because then you win because that’s a lot of pressure.
Still Getting Resistance
Now if you’re athlete is really resisting any help, and you’ve said, “You know there’s this lady Rebecca, and she has all these podcasts. Listen to her blog, check it out?” And the kid’s like, “No, I don’t want it. I’m fine,” that’s okay. Here’s what we do. The resistance. Usually it comes from feeling attacked or criticized. I can relate to this. I wonder if you can, too. That if you feel attacked or you feel criticized and you’re saying, “I’m fine. I don’t need any help. Quit doing that. Quit making me feel bad. It’s your fault.” They want to point the blame. They’re like, “You’re just stressing me out!”
There’s a different way that you want to approach them. Their attitude toward change is going to be really important. They might think there’s nothing wrong, they just want to get their skills figured out. “I don’t want help. I just want to do it,” And then if you’re still trying to offer help, they’re going to feel like you’re criticizing them when there was no problem.
Roll With It
We want to avoid any kind of confrontation. Our mantra is going to be “roll with resistance”, roll with it. If you have an 11 to 17-year-old and you give them something to push back against, what are they gonna do? They’re going push. Especially in that 13 plus zone, they’re going to push back against anything because that’s what they’re developmentally supposed to be doing. They’re supposed to be differentiating from you. They’re supposed to be getting more independent. They’re supposed to want to do it themselves.
If you’re trying to encroach on their ability to be independent, they’re going to push back no matter what it is. Even if it’s the absolute answer to their problem, they’re gonna be like, “No, that’s not it.” If there’s resistance, instead of pushing back against it, you want to roll with it.
This basically means that you’re avoiding an argument, which I know is easier said than done, especially in the sport arena. You can feel free to argue about chores, their bedroom, whatever, but when it comes to their sport, try to limit the arguments. Try not to push, try not to interject suggestions even. Here’s what you’ll do instead – when they are melting down, instead of saying, “Well, I told you. Do you want to be done with this? What are we gonna do? How are we going to get through this? Do you want to switch gyms?” Instead of, just flying into the solution and the suggestions, what you want to do is listen and allow them to really feel heard.
Communicating with your Athlete
I have a course in the perform happy community, all for parents. It’s called Peak Performance Parenting. The fourth module is about how to communicate with your athletes. I give you the exact system and I’m going to give you a taste of that right now. One of the best Jedi mind trick magic things to do when somebody is in resistance is to repeat back to them what they’re saying. If they’re whining and complaining, “I’m never going to get this. I’m too old for this, I’m too tall. This is not going to work. Ah!” Then you just repeat it back. “You feel too old, you feel too tall, and you really feel like this isn’t gonna work.” What happens next is this magical thing where they hear their words coming back at them from you, not judging, not mocking, not being sarcastic, but you’re just repeating them back.
They hear them and they’ll either go, “Whoa, that’s a little intense. No, I didn’t mean that,” or they’ll go, “Yeah,” and they’ll call him down because they feel hurt. A lot of the time athletes feel like they’re just like battling it out with everybody (even though there might not even be a battle) so that they feel heard. They can exhale and they can kind of relax.
Bring Awareness to your Athlete
The next thing isn’t just to jump in with a solution, but you start to help them see how the way they’re approaching it is or isn’t lining up with their goals. If you know that your athlete loves their sport and wants to do it in college, and that’s their dream and they’re saying, “I’m no good, I’m so terrible at this. I hate this. I don’t ever want to do that skill. I wish it didn’t even exist,” and then you repeat it to them and you just let it be okay. You let that be the way they feel and then you say, “Yeah, so I think maybe just don’t do it,” or, “It’s ok. That’s the way it is,” and then you might be able to bring up, “So you want to go to college… I wonder if there’s a way to do that without the skill or without that,” and then they’ll go, “No there isn’t.” So you respond, “Okay shoot. So something has got to change do. What do you think needs to change?”
Finding a Solution Together
Now you’ve given them permission to come up with their own solutions. You helped them by letting them be heard, you helped them to identify what they’re working toward, you helped them identify that maybe those things are not totally lined up, in a really curious, hands-off, non confrontational way through really great questions, which I give you a whole bunch of good questions in that Peak Performance Parenting course.
Then you asked them, “What do you think you need to do?” And that’s it. Even if you know this is what they need to do, it will totally work. I’ve seen it happen. Go do it. You ask them, “What do you think? What do you want to do? What do you think’s the next move here?” They might say, “I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it,” and then you back off and you leave them be. Their wheels are probably turning, whether you realize it or not. And then you back off and then they talk again, and then you reflect back to them what you hear. You don’t make it wrong, you don’t give them solutions. Next you ask, “What do you think? What do you think the move is here?” If they don’t know, “Okay, I love you. You’re working so hard.”
Allow Space for Feelings
And that’s kind of the process. If you give them enough space to feel the way they feel and to be mad and to be ungrateful, and you let them know, “Oh, that’s got to be so hard for you,” and you don’t try to solve it, it’s amazing what they will start to do for themselves. You can then start to relax because you don’t have to solve the problem. You don’t have to convince them, you don’t have to fix it. You just love them and praise their effort and take them for their word.
Then that encouragement to come up with their own solutions empowers them and eventually, it gets them to the point where something’s got to give with their pattern of negative thinking, avoidance, and giving up. They realize it’s not going to get them to college. Then they say, “Help!” When they look for help, that’s when you step in!
That’s the basics of how to help somebody who doesn’t want to be helped. I go into detail in the Peak Performance Parenting course in the PerformHappy community. I would love to invite all of you to join. We have the doors open for just a few more days. We’re going to close the doors on Wednesday because I’m only letting a new pack of athletes come join now.
We’re going to go through the three phases of confidence building through June, July, and August. At the end of August, I will likely invite some more people in, but I’m not sure. It depends because I love the community aspect. If you are one of those parents who’s kid is like, “Heck no, I don’t want any help,” join us in the community. Then you get to lean on me.
PerformHappy Facebook Group
We have a private Facebook group where all the parents come together. Half the parents are posting success videos and half the parents are posting, “Oh my kid is driving me crazy. What do I do?” And then I guide you through that. You’ve got each other through it. You see the hope of those success stories that you can share with your athlete. You can show them, “Oh my gosh, this kid hadn’t done a backhand spring in three years and look at her on the beam.” Those are the things that can really help spark that hope and get your kid into the place where they want to ask for help. So that’s going to be open.
There is a money back guarantee. If you show up, you go in, and you do the parenting course and you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s so useful, but my kid is not going to do this,” within the first 30 days I’ll give you a full refund so you can sign up for the full three months.
If you know that your athlete’s on board and you know that they can really benefit from this training, you can sign up. You get a $40 discount by clicking here. You can click the link and go straight over there and get more information. That link is going to be closed down on Wednesday, so get in there, check it out! You can get in, poke around, and just try it. If it’s not for you, you get your money back. If you know you’re on board for the summer, get in and get that special offer. It’s $197 for the summer, which you save $40 off the regular $79 a month and you end up with one-on-one coaching with me once or twice a week in that group setting.
You also get forums for the parents. If your kid’s not going to go anywhere near it, totally fine. You can communicate with me and I can help give you suggestions that will get you helping your child in this Jedi Ninja secret way in the Peak Performance Parenting course. The last module is about how to help your athlete learn mental toughness and then also talks about where they are on the stages of change, if they’re even ready.
The modules start with an intro. The first one is “why kids don’t compete like they practice” and it’s all about the science of fear and how their brain works. You can really understand what’s happening when they’re melting down and freaking out. Then it’s “is your child ready for peak performance” and it goes through a little questionnaire of where’s your kid at? Are they even ready to be challenged at this point? If not, then you’ll know and you can kind of back off then how to communicate with your athlete, which we talked about, and then start teaching mental toughness.
PerformHappy gives you a lot of family exercises and different things that you can do to support your kid. So join us! I really want to help you so your kids don’t get stuck like me. Either way, even if your kid is just hitting the wall, hitting the wall, hitting the wall, you can be this serene, calm presence that can help them learn from it when they emerge from the hole.
If and when they’re willing, we’ve got this amazing library of tools that they can access in their community. It’s in all of the trainings are either video or we have an audio option so you can listen to it while you drive to practice. You can listen to it while you commute, and you can get through all the courses on your own so you have this arsenal of information to be able to help them when and if they become willing. If not, you’ll know how to take care of yourself.
Often in the Facebook group, there will be someone who’s like, “Why are your kids getting into it and my kid is not getting it?” People will respond, “Oh we so get it. Hang in there, take care of you.” It’s that mentality of make sure you put your oxygen mask on first.
If you are coming from this depleted place and you can’t be patient, you can’t be tolerant of what they’re going through, you can’t be kind, you can’t be this, just repeat back what they’re talking about.
I hope you will join us. PerformHappy is a really great community that I want you to get in. If you have questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and then I will be back tomorrow talking more about those live group trainings. I’ll do my live, members only training, and then I’ll hop on here so you can get a little taste. I’ll also give you a tour of what the dashboard looks like and what the actual program can entails. I’ll see you then. Thanks for joining me.