Dear Coach, |
HELP! My 5 year-old (Maggie) has become a terrific competitive runner. She has placed 3rd in her last 2 races in the 0-12 year-old age bracket. She trains hard and is running approx. 11 minute mile pace in 2-mile or 5k races.
The problem... she seems VERY concerned with beating a girl within her age group that is in front of her (or very close) at the finish area. For example, in her last race, she was 5 yards ahead of a 9 year old and stopped to let the girl pass her approx. 100 feet from the finish. She then started again and finished 3rd.
She has readily admitted a 'fear' of beating an older girl. We have showed her the results of her last 2 races and the girls that she did beat that were 8-11 years in age.
Any other suggestions?
It is great your daughter likes to run. I agree with you that at 5 she shouldn't be even thinking about the competitive aspects of running. Who is the faster runner at 5 years old should be contested in the playground or at school recess NOT on the roads at a 5k race. Try to encourage her to participate in fun things like being the best at tag or hide and seek. I don't believe there is a place for 5 year olds running 5K races. I advise parents to have their children compete within their age groups even if they are as good or better than older kids.
Track meets and fun runs sometimes have events for 5 year olds but the distance is age appropriate usually 50 meters to 200 meters. I realize even kids as young as 5 put pressure on themselves to perform at extreme athletic levels. We as parents and coaches have to make sure youth athletics is a fun, interesting, and learning experience for children. Those are the results that matter.
When I see signs of undo pressure and fear of losing in a young athlete I advise parents to look for another activity for their child possibly a team sport such as soccer. With team sports the attention is on the team and the pressure, if their is any, is spread around a bunch of kids not just one. I wish Maggie the best and would love to see her continue to run. Maybe now is not the time for her but in a couple of years it may be just right. All my best.
Editor Carol's note to Maggie:
Hi, Maggie! Try to have a lot of fun with your running and try to find a shorter race with other kids only your own age (4-6) and then give it your all! When you see that finish line, put on the speed! We call it a kick. Run faster and don't stop until you are WAY across the line, but do this in a race with lots of 5 years old kids. Let us know all about it when you do.
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.
Feel free to email the kid's editor at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments on this column.