As it is Sport Parent week I’ve been reflecting on some of the younger athletes I’ve worked with. What struck me was that often these young athletes don’t just excel in their sport. They excel in every area of their lives; their sporting performance, in playing a musical instrument and achieving high grades at school. When you are good at so many things you have a lot of choices, but when you have so many choices, prioritisation can be hard so these young athletes are talent rich, but time poor.
Often with these young athletes, to help them become more self-aware of why they are feeling so much pressure, we will sketch out the 24 hours of their day to see just how much they are doing. It often looks like this…
|Area of life||Hours|
|Sleep is vital for all of us – but especially for young athletes who need sufficient sleep to recover from their sport, memorise what they are learning at school and stave off illness. So we always put down 8 hours for sleep. Ideally they would also have an hour before bed to chill out.||Sleep||8
|Calming down to sleep||1|
|School – many of the athletes I work with are at schools requiring them to attend between 8am and 4pm. They are getting at least 1-2 hour’s homework on top of that. Add another hour at least for travel there and back||School||8
|Training – most athletes are training for at least an hour, sometimes more a day, either working on technique in their sport or fitness sessions. This, with travel, takes up to 3 hours a day.||Training||1.5
|Music or other hobbies – many athletes are also expected to spend an hour a day on a music lesson or practice.||Practice||1
This leaves 30 minutes for breakfast, having a meal with their families, hanging out with friends, playing Xbox or watching TV; all the things which will help them relax, recover and enjoy life.
These athletes have some of the best chances in life. They love what they are learning and they are enthusiastic and passionate. But they can find themselves under a huge amount of pressure and struggling just to keep up. With such a packed life they may just not have time to get the headspace required to cope with these levels of stress. And while they may be able to tick over in winter when summer comes and you throw sports competitions and exams into the mix they may hit their coping tipping point.
If you are parenting one of these athletes maybe sit down with them (or chat whilst taking them to school or training), and find out if they are aware of just how much they are trying to achieve, if they can see where their time is going, ways they think you could help them to free up more time, help them make plans for the crunch periods and, most importantly, remind them that if sometimes they need a break from it all that is fine and that you love them for who they are, not how much they achieve.