By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a well-established trainer in my area. I’ve been training the daughter of a very close family friend. This young gal has great riding potential, but lacks confidence. I have noticed her mother is constantly criticizing her riding, telling her she is not good enough. Since this is a very close family friend, how do I go about telling Mom to stop putting her down and rather try to boost her daughter’s confidence?
According to recent research, participating in a sport provides four vital elements in a young person’s development:
- Young people learn how to improve their social interactions with others
- It increases their level of self confidence
- It improves their health
- It improves their communication skills
The bottom line is that children who are involved in sport(s) are more likely to be well-adjusted, healthy adults who ultimately have been shown to make more meaningful contributions in their work endeavors and society in general.
Parents need to ask themselves: What do I want my child to take away from this experience?
Studies have shown that sports involvement promotes some very specific life lessons:
- The value of dedication and commitment
- The importance of practice
- How to win and lose with pride
- The concept of fair play
How a parent supports a child in their athletic endeavor can impact these lessons either positively or negatively. Parents sometimes forget to reward effort and only focus on the outcome. A parent should be there as an objective observer/supporter and not as a coach or critical commentator. Children don’t perform well when they feel emotionally threatened, especially by someone who is supposed to be their advocate.
Perhaps you should begin by meeting up with your friend away from a horse show and having a very specific discussion that will answer these questions:
- What does she want her child to gain from her riding experience?
- Did she ever participate in a sport and what helped or hindered her performance?
- In her life, does she gain more from a supportive approach to resolve an issue or a critical approach?
You can then share that as a trainer or a parent you both want the young athlete to succeed, perform well, enjoy winning and learn from losing. You both feel passion about what you’re watching and there are feelings of pride as well as disappointment. But, if one projects the wrong emotions, the child will ultimately fear performing because of the possible negative verbal consequences and ultimately lose interest in the sport.
Overall, let your friend know that your goal for her child is not only to help her ride well, if that is her desire, but moreover to enhance the life skills that riding has to offer. Ask your friend to help you with that in being supportive as an observer while allowing you to do the coaching.