Raising an Athlete
Sports!! From fall to winter, spring to summer, I have always loved the cycle of sports. It is extremely exciting to watch a family member play in competitive sports. Being an enthusiastic follower of my daughter as an all-star softball player, I really had to let go of my instinct to be a mom-coach. I quickly learned how to become a silent and compassionate partner when my daughter competed in championship games. I discovered that the stakes were high. And maybe a bit too high for my daughter and her team to relax, focus, and enjoy their sport.
As a typical parent, I initially tried to encourage my child while being positive. This strategy failed, however, when my daughter and her team felt the pressure during the playoffs. Suddenly, the pressure was so great that the joy of the sport was lost. The team froze and became exacerbated. Then our talented team lost their focus. Finally, they lost the win of their championship game.
What I Learned as a Parent
When I reflect back on what happened, this is what I learned about parenting an athlete:
- It is my job to stay present and supportive regardless of how my child is responding to the coach and her team.
- When the game becomes tense, I must diffuse my energy with a calming smile and be there as a positive force of energy for my child and the team.
- I must remember that the most important lesson for my child is not the outcome but the process. She is there as part of a team. My job is to encourage positive teambuilding through support, compassion, and concern for every team member.
- When there is tension, it is important to refocus the team with a timeout of support and positive energy. My job is to give my daughter the space she needs to regroup and find her center of focus. Healing happens through individual choice.
- After a major game upset, it is important to give my daughter the space she needs to regroup and relax. Some athletes need to vent about what went wrong during the game. Others need the space to self-reflect. That is when I need to be quiet and take the cues from my daughter.
- Showing up matters!
What I Learned from the Coaches
- Once a team member makes an error, it is past history. The coach must restore motivational energy among team members.
- No good is ever generated from shame discussions.
- Players are aware of their limitations. Each needs their own reinforced coping skills when they fail.
- Players rebuild their skills and potential through acknowledged growth and full potential of the team.
- An effective coach is a reservoir of inspirational strength and skill development strategies for every team member.
Much success as a parent who supports their child athlete and team to their next victory of self-growth as an effective team member.
Melissa has been an educator for over 20 years, and has spent the largest block of her teaching career in second grade, with additional experience in Grades 1 through 4.
After graduating from the University of Nevada with a Bachelor of Science Degree in education, with a dual degree in special education, Melissa traveled through Europe. Ms. Donahoe taught her first teaching assignment at a Department of Defense School in Germany. Following her husband’s military career, she also taught at a Title 1 school in Ft. Lewis, and finally landed in Silicon Valley, where she has taught for the past 16 years.
Melissa trained with the Noyce Foundation’s Writer’s Workshop. She has served as a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) coach at her school, where she facilitated curiosity and a love for learning among her students.
Melissa developed a passion for biodiversity after visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium with her nephew. She adopted a sea otter mascot named “Loutre” and discovered her fascination with ocean health, imparting to her students the relationship between sea otters and their critical role in maintaining healthy kelp forests. Along with ocean health, Melissa inspires awareness among her students about microplastics in the environment. She is a follower of the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program and believes that small changes at home can foster activism that leads to healthy life habits.
Melissa has a daughter who is a junior in high school and a son who is attending his second year of college at the University of Nevada.