Raising an Olympian: What parents can learn from JR Celski

<p = Z x C5 x E

Z = JR started skating as a family "group activity" when he was 3. He started competing at four years old. JR discovered his passion and natural talent in early childhood.

Parents: Get started doing fun doing all kinds of family "group activities" together. Expose your 3 and 4 year old to as wide a variety of interests as you can!

C5 = "We gotta make this work". To train, JR had to move across the country at 14 years old. It was difficult. 5 months before the Olympic Games, JR sliced his leg during a competition. It not only could have ended his career, but could have ended his life. The challenge made him realize who he was a human being. He fought his way back because he believes that the point of being an Olympian is jumping through obstacles. The key and the lock is "believing in myself enough, I can make it happen".

Parents: Accept that challenges are a normal part of life. Demonstrate to your children how to face adversity and work through whatever comes with a positive outlook. Find ways to "make it work" no matter what the situation. Build strong character and self-assured child.

E = His family believed in him. "He believed so much in himself, I believed in him too". "I never doubted myself. My mom is my backbone."

Parents: Adopt an attitude of, "I know you can…" with your children. Support effort and ethic within their control, not the prize or outcome that is not. Believe they can take one more step, go a little higher, do a little better. Expect them to be 1% better today than they were yesterday. Let them know you believe they can reach their potential.

Imagine a world where each of our children maximized their individual potentials and gave it as their gift to the rest of the world. Build your champion.

5 Things Parents Shouldn’t Miss about the Olympics

ImageAs we watched the Opening Ceremonies, the P & G Commercials that make me cry, watched the Slopestyle events, team skating, luge, and biathlon.  We saw Olympians.  

We saw a group of excited kids in funky patriotic sweaters excited to walk into the stadium.  We saw Sage throw down a trick that he hadn’t even practiced, but landed him one of the first medals of the Games.  We watched a just-turned-15 year old Russian girl skate as if she didn’t know she was supposed to make it at least looked like she trained, or worked hard since she made it look so incredibly easy and beautiful.  We watched Ashley Wagner gain redemption and a couple of ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, move together as one as they’ve done since they were small children.  We saw sweat, spittle, pain, ecstacy, cheers and tears. But I’ve been picking up on a few other things that may have not been so obvious.  They are simple things, not rocket-science.  They are applicable, not magical.  But they’re threads that are common in the weave of an Olympian; of anyone who becomes extraordinary.  What can parents learn?

1.   FOUR.  4.  I heard this number over and over.  During interviews with athletes, it was the age they were introduced to their passion; their sport.  One was taken to a mountain to snowboard, another, to skating, another watched the Olympics and said, “that’s what I want to do”…  

Parents:  Allow your kids see and taste and try everything and anything when they’re 3, 4, 7 years old.  Don’t over-protect, don’t limit, don’t shelter, don’t ignore, don’t stow them away in a classroom.  Take them into the world and have fun exploring with them.  Be a tour guide and introduce them to everything you can see and do around you.  And yes, this requires parents to choose to invest in their children; to make them a priority not by being permissive and indulgent resulting in prima donna’s, but by focusing on doing what’s right and best for them.  Often this means our personal career, our satisfaction as adults, becomes raising the children we chose to bring into this world over pursuing other personal successes.

2.  PASSION.  Every Olympian loves, loves, loves what they do.  You hear it in their tone and when they describe their story.  They’ve latched onto what captured their imagination and couldn’t be stopped.  They still don’t have limits.  Their parents didn’t coerce or force or manipulate or orchestrate to turn their child into a phenom.  In fact, these Olympians needed to be reined in a bit by their parents to insist they come inside for a meal, sleep…warm up so they wouldn’t get frostbite…again.  Olympians have a deep passion within them.  They love what they do.  They love the process of excelling in what they love to do.  There’s a tenacity, a grit, a determination to go and go and go again.  They have a compulsion to set goals and see them become reality and a craving to see how much they can do and how far they can go.  

Parents:  You cannot manufacture passion.  Everyone has something that grabs their attention.  Explore as much as possible and fan the flames.  Pushing or pulling your child in a direction you dictate only puts your child on a fast-track to missing what they were meant to do.  Being externally motivated by your insistance will only cause a train wreck physically and emotionally later when they rebel and walk away.  It’s best to allow them to discover who they are, create the space and strength to center them on their own internal compass.   At best ask questions:  What do you want to try?  What do you enjoy most?  Do you think you can….?  Why don’t you try…?  Make it normal to pursue something they love, use their natural strengths to excel and push to their greatest potential.

3.  ME vs WE.  Olympians catch a unique fever.  Over and over, I hear that they are fueled to take their passion and natural talent beyond what they thought possible, to push the envelope of what they think they can do and redefine the sport, to represent their country well.  Bode Miller said he always races on the verge of out-of-control to the edge of himself.  Shawn White literally changed the height of the half-pipe because he kept forcing it to be built higher as he jumped to increasingly crazy heights.  As the athletes walked out into the stadium, the team instantly bonded in patriotism and pride.  These Olympians roll in the satisfaction of being a part of something bigger than themselves.  Their dreams go beyond themselves.

Parents:  Help your child know the difference of when it’s right to do what’s best for them as an individual, and applaud the efforts to participate in events bigger than one that require them to do what’s right for a team.  Celebrate taking appropriate risks to see how far they can go, helping them adjust and stretch further so they always know that excelling comes after taking a risk to go faster, higher stronger.  Point out how maximizing their potential isn’t just good for them, but adding to something bigger than them too.  

4.  PARENTS.  Every Olympian has a parent or two that surrounds them with support.  Their parents don’t limit, squash, or tell them they can’t…  They told them they believe in their potential.  It may not have even been said directly, but shown in providing freedom to try, the safety to risk, encouragement by standing quietly watching with a content smile, patching cuts, soothing sore muscles, providing never-ending meals, driving miles and miles.  They make sure they have what they need to move forward.

Parents:  In order for a child to move forward, to become all they can possibly become, they need to know their base, their parents, are solid and secure so they can risk what they do and know their parents will be there to love and accept them, encourage them, guide and assist them.  They need to know their parents will be there, behind them to catch a fall and ahead to smooth a way when there are obstacles ahead.  No matter what they do, your love and support needs to be the steady and secure thing.  It can’t be given when they succeed and you are proud and withdrawn in disgust if they fail.  It’s a very special and unique partnership.  Be proud of their efforts and pursuit, not the outcome.

5. PIVOTAL MOMENT:  Every Olympian has a story that includes struggle, pain, difficulties, and challenges.  In every case, there was at least one huge obstacle that threatened to stop them. JR Celski sliced his leg during competition so badly his life was in jeopardy.  He fought back and is in Sochi competing as an Olympian again.  Financial mountains, devestating injuries, problems that weren’t in their control, coaches that failed, teammates that caused havoc… There wasn’t one story where the road to the Olympics was a walk in the park.  In every case, Olympic families had monumental issues where it would have been legitimate to walk away.  But they didn’t.  They figured it out.  They adapted and overcame.  They made it happen.    

Parents:  Don’t lead your children to believe life is a microwave, 30 minute sitcom.  Life is a series of ups/downs, successes and failures, challenges and rewards.  It’s neither all good and easy, nor bad and difficult.  It’s a ride to navigate it all. Help them to take what’s before them head-on and deal in the best way they can.  They need to learn to respond realistically and well.  Don’t rescue your children.  Let them push through natural consequences, think, problem solve and take responsibility for their choices.  Don’t let them quit when it’s hard, but encourage them to persevere even in little things.  Encourage them, “You can do this…”.  And when you hit the biggest obstacle all, don’t stop.  Sometimes the hardest push is the last one.  

We’re all an Olympian at something.  There’s potential in all of us waiting to have it revealed.  Reveal your child’s greatness..  

<P = Z x C5 x E

  • Z = Explore and discover your child’s passion and natural strengths and fuel them.
  • C5 = Make the process more important than the result, developing the character more than the skill.
  • E = Invest in your children.  You are the only parents they will have.  Build them from the inside out.  Create the space they need to maximize their potential.

 

 

 

 

Parent Playbook: Early Childhood Building Blocks

Image

When the kids were little, we didn’t have two nickles to rub together.  We thought it was important for the kids to be home with a parent so, I left my career, sucked it up and we lived tight and simple.  The payoff turned out to be pretty cool.  The kids didn’t have technology, we didn’t and still have never had other than antennae tv, we had basic backyard play equipment, liked to play, get out for adventures and try new things.  There were lots of times the kids were on their own to do what kids know best, how to play, and times they would be thrown into whatever we parents were into doing.  So, they would run, climb, swing, dig, hit, dance, lift, pull up, roll, jump, throw… on their own.  And we took them hiking, biking, skating, sledding, swimming… from the time they were infants.  I wanted to expose them to anything and everything I could.  When he had opportunities to try things, we did.  If we could only watch, we watched.

In 2000, Cierra played happily on the living room floor.  Most days, we had PBS on in the morning for background interest, but during that summer, we watched the summer Olympic Games.  She was 4 years old.  As many events would be shown, we’d both casually glance at something of interest while doing other things.  I noticed though that C would stop and sit on her knees close to the screen whenever swimming came on.  I’d shake my head not getting how a preschooler could be captured by something that wasn’t “pretty” or a game or anything other than little stick figures going back and forth in a blue rectangle, but she was glued every time.  On the third day of swimming competition, parked in the same spot, there was a defining moment in her life.  At 4, she pointed at the screen, turned to look at me and said, “I’m going to do that Mommy”.  It was one of those moments that get frozen in time because there was something about it that meant something.  I could have ignored that moment.  I could have said we couldn’t afford to do anything.  I could have thought she was only a preschooler and blown off what she said.  But we didn’t.

Since she didn’t even know how to swim, I thought we should get her to a pool.  I didn’t have any ambition of her becoming an Olympian, I just thought we should let her try swimming and see if she liked it.  It made sense for all the kids to be safe around water, so there was no reason not to make this happen.  We went to the local YMCA.  I haven’t been able to keep her out of the water since.

Rick Powell fell in love with kayaking at 3 years old.  He went to the Beijing Games. Shaun White’s family took him snowboarding when he was 5.  He was obsessed with it at 6.  He’s defined competitive snowboarding.  Michael Phelps began swimming at 7 because his older sisters swam, he became the greatest Olympian of all time.  Peyton Manning played football in the yard with his dad and brothers when he was a kid and just went to the Superbowl for the third time. 

Giving children the time, space and permission to play everyday is one of the greatest gifts we can give them for it is through play children learn to develop their social, emotional, mental and physical skills- David Kittner @youthfitnessguy

Goal:  Build a base wide and strong enough to support future success.

  • Take your time and have fun with your kids.  Be Adventurous and PLAY!
  • Recognize that development is a PROCESS. Growth is incremental.  Praise their character, not outcome.
  • Use common sense, good judgment and balance
  • Love, respect and encouragement should always be present along with developmentally appropriate guidance, high expectations and standards.  At this age, everything is just being introduced so go easy.  Say, “Have fun”, “I’m glad you’re being brave and trying something new”, “What did you like about playing?”  “I love you.  It’s fun to watch you find out what makes you, the best you!”

Pre-school years

Clarity:  expose your kids to as many great experiences as you can provide them:  physical, intellectual, creative…

  • Don’t over-protect them, but allow them to try anything they might be interested in trying.  You never know… btw..being dirty, sweaty and getting bruised and cut once in awhile is definitely okay.  
  • Make it normal to try new things and develop their internal compass about whether they like something or not.
  • The wider their activity and experiences, the wider their opportunity and greater strength for success will be.
  • Expose them to fresh, whole foods from the beginning.  Nutrition is fuel for an athlete and it tastes so much better! 

 The greater the variety, the stronger their athletic base will become: 

  • Coordination
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Agility
  • Hand/eye, body awareness
  • Basic skills like running, jumping, throwing…

 Early Elementary:  Add instructional opportunities:

 So they learn to be:  

  • Centered:  help them focus on their internal compass by asking questions about what they think, feel, what they learned, how they’d do something differently…
  • Coachable: make it normal to listen, to evaluate and apply suggestions for improvement without being overly emotional.
  • Commited:  don’t let them quit when something is hard, uncomfortable or they don’t succeed right away.  Say, “I know it’s not easy, but you’ll get better and might get it if you try again”.
  • Composed:  focus on the process of learning, be objective, not emotional, talk about their effort, attitude, and actions not outcomes or their person.
  • Competitive:  encourage them to “compete” against themselves and to improve each time they try something.  Praise their effort to win and resilience when they don’t.

 Game play:  find places for them to play games with others.

  • Rules
  • Turns
  • Playing enjoyably with others 

 Sportsmanship: introduce team sports and competing in contests.

  • Me vs. We:  help them see when something is about them doing what’s best for them, and when they need to do what’s best for the team.
  • Introduce them to winning and losing, playing to win, learning in defeat

If your child becomes crazy in love with one thing…

If they are ridiculously natural at it…

Don’t lose your head.  It’s still really, really, really, important to build a wide and strong base that will support future success.