Game Day

18 Oct

I learned the hard way what the power of suggestion could do for kids…

Many years ago, I coached a cheer team that was going after a State Championship repeat. I had been coaching a few years by then, so I should have displayed a bit more grace under pressure, but hadn’t quite learned my lesson yet.

Most of my team were seasoned, experienced athletes. However, in the weeks leading up to the state finals, I pulled up a very small sophomore to sub for a flier who had been hurt. Amy was doing a great job, but in warm-ups, she stumbled out of a pyramid. Rather than re-assure her that she was capable and that she had my full confidence, I let my own nerves take over and I lost it. I told her she had better not do that ‘out there’ and walked away angrily.

Although I regretted what I did instantly, the competition was beginning and I was ushered back to the coaches area while my team went to the on-deck area. I had no opportunity to apologize and let Amy know I was out of line and that I truly believed in her.

My team came out – flawless in the first round of competition. And, they were flawless in the second round of competition right up to that very pyramid – and, of course, that very same tumble. Anyone who knows anything about human nature could have predicted what would happen.

As we awaited the results, I did have the opportunity to apologize and even laugh it off with Amy. She was much more gracious than I had been earlier and I made sure she knew that her fall meant nothing to me compared to her self-worth, which despite her shrugging it off, I felt I damaged.

I was a different coach following that season and my new ‘Game Day’ philosophy has followed me beyond coaching, as well, especially with my own son and often times, my husband.

‘Game Day’ is any day or even week, when a kid has something important coming up that requires a sense of relaxed focus. For coaches and parents, it means that leading up to the big event (game, competition, test, try-out), our main job is to build up and stay away from the negatives. The hour before a team tryout, for instance, is not the time for a parent or coach to start shouting new instructions or reminders to a young athlete. If your daughter has a huge exam, getting angry at her for not cleaning her room as she’s about to leave for the school bus could have a negative effect on her ability to concentrate. It’s no use to you or your son to badger him about sitting up straight at the piano as he’s walking up to the stage at his recital. By that time, his auto-pilot will kick in, as it does for all of their activities and performances. If you have spent the week building him up, I promise you, good posture will be an inherent part of the process.

This might be a good to time to remind all of us that a huge part of the ‘Game Day’ strategy is to withhold any teacher/coach/instructor bashing in front of our kids, so that our darlings don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable tug at their hearts of which ‘adult’ they should be listening and loyal to at their most crucial competitive times.

Simply remembering that the stresses of our children’s lives and activities require more of our support and understanding (read: restrain from being anything but kind to them during these times!!), will help them clear their minds and allow them to perform at a higher level. The ‘Game Day’ attitude pretty much enhances all we do and have to offer our kids!

Oh – and for what it’s worth, my team was absolutely prepared to be gracious second place finishers that day.…. except they ended up having to be gracious winners. We won, despite the fall. To me, the win belonged to Amy.

Warm Regards,


One Response to “Game Day”

  1. Kristine wade October 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    I remember the practice, performance, and first place win like it was yesterday
    Terri. What great suggestions to all of us as parents, teachers and coaches that you wrote and i could not agree more. Brought tears to my eyes when you wrote the win belongs to amy. You were a fabulous coach and we were all so fortunate to have you in our lives. Love ya, kris wade

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