Dear Coach Ed,|
My 12-year-old son enjoys training for cross-country and track, but gets nervous and tight whenever he is in a meet. He consistently runs with and even beats the top runners on his team at practices but is disappointed when he doesn't finish with them in competitions. How can I help him to loosen up and enjoy his meets? He says that the pressure is uncomfortable, but as far as I can tell, the only pressure on him is from himself. I have tried to encourage him to just have fun, but he seems to have a block. Any suggestions?
A couple of things might be going on here. Practice is just that. PRACTICE! It is not a time to race. Your son may be keeping up with the top runners in practice because he is running at 100% and they are running at 90%. At meets he has nothing left to give and he knows it (which will cause tension) while the other athletes are saving their 100% performance for the meets.
It is tough on a parent to see disappointment when he is trying so hard. Just try to reinforce the fact that "HIS" times are getting better and self improvement is the mark of a great athlete. How can you be disappointed when you are improving all the time?
Something else to explain is that distance runners have breakthroughs at different times in their running careers. A case in point. I had a young miler on my team who was a middle of the pack finisher from age 12 to 14. He really started to improve in high school (totally different training than age group running).
Each year he kept getting better. As a senior he won the State X-Country Championship! To sum this all up. It's just running. Have fun with it. Train at practice don't race. Look for self improvement and be proud of it. Be consistent with your running. The rewards are on the way.
Ed Poirier, "Coach Ed", recently was invited by the United States Olympic
committee to attend a workshop and training seminar at the Olympic training
center in California.
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