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by Meg Goldberg (ambassador momma)
You Got An Invite… Yeah! Now What?
As a parent, you have a lot of time on your hands.
I don’t know why it surprised me at how much time I had once Lexi was out the door, whether it was before competition days or during the events. Because parents are out looking after and watching their own kids we didn’t often see each other during the day. We had some drinks and dinners together, but for the most part I was on my own. I would go out and watch Lexi compete at each event and timed my day around that. Another thing I liked to do was be an event volunteer.
Volunteering is great because for every day you volunteer, you get a free lift ticket! Yeah – I like free things and it kept me busy. I volunteered to assist on practice day and at the courses that Lexi was going to be on that day. It’s pretty easy with a central point to sign in, get your lunch, and get instructions. Your volunteer bib serves at your lift ticket. You get your free lift ticket when you turn in your bib at the end of the day. It’s good for an entire year so if you don’t use it at this year’s competition, there’s next. You can register to volunteer now on the USASA Nationals website page. If you don’t ski or ride, there are inside jobs like stuffing packets and registration. They go pretty fast though.
Volunteering gives you something to do, earns you a free lift ticket, and allowed me to see a course that I might not have total access to as a bystander. I was also able to be a fly on the wall to see how Lexi set herself up and interacted with her coach as well as how other coaches/athletes did things.
I asked Lexi and her coach ahead of time if being a volunteer on competition day would cause either extra stress or distraction. It was only with their approval that I volunteered. I also limited it to practice day and 2 comp days.
The big picture is that Nationals is an opportunity for athletes who’ve qualified regionally to compete on a larger level, meet new athletes, and have fun. In order for that to happen a lot pieces have to fall into place. Just like at home there are schedules, coaches meetings, course checks, warm ups, competition rules, and awards. There’s a stricter adherence to wearing bibs and identification, to schedules and course protocols, and who’s allowed on courses. Judging can be stricter as well as subjective and not what you’re used to. Therefore it’s important to keep that in mind and in perspective. This is not the time to be lax, but going into parent over drive isn’t good either (it’ll make you and everybody else crazy!).
Remember everyone wants everyone to do well. Show team spirit and go out together for awards or attend a railjam. Have a drink with other parents. People are typically friendly and encouraging. Overall it has a really nice vibe.
Every team (or athlete/coach) has their way of doing things. Make sure you know what that is, where and what time you’re supposed to show up; that your athlete is truly ready to go with their gear, lunch, water, whatever; and know when to stand back out of the way. Be ready for things to change and go with the flow. The organizers sometimes need to make changes—due to weather, course needs – and usually are communicated at the daily coaches meeting.
There are a lot of demands on coaches. And more so at Nationals than any time during the season. Unless you have a private coach, remember that they have more than your athlete to work with, get ready, and worry about. I found Lexi’s coaches to be very accommodating, caring, and attentive – usually going over and above. Remember that volunteer job I was telling you about – I saw all the coaches in action and know they have your kid’s best interest at heart. I didn’t have to be calling and texting them all day. Remember every text, every interference impacts not only the coach but the athlete(s) they’re working with. Would you want the coach working with your child distracted or interrupted, let alone by another parent? Let them do their job. They know what they’re doing. Be mindful of their time. Be kind. Give them some breathing room.
Your athlete is going to get stressed and tired. It can be hard to balance fun with rest. If your athlete is showing stress, Lexi would recommend allowing them the space to let it out or find ways to get them to relax. One year Lexi enjoyed an hour at the spa! A couple of game nights or laughing at stupid stuff may help release tension. Woodward may be a good distraction too. Or play Cards Against Humanity with one or two of your SheShreds friends!
If your team or coach hasn’t communicated their expectations or plan for Nationals – ask for one. You should know what they expect from you and your athlete, and the anticipated schedule for the week. Lexi’s a worrier. How she mentally prepares is knowing in advance her coach’s schedule, her comp schedule, when and where she needs to be. If you feel your team or coach hasn’t done that yet, then find out when it will be available. If you want to know how they think your athlete will do, it’s okay to ask. If your kid is at the top of the pack, that is so great. However, don’t be offended or take it personally if their assessment is different than yours. They’ve worked with them all season long, have experience at Nationals, and are being honest so you can support and encourage.
Be ready and show up when you’re supposed to without any extra fuss. If something changes, go with the flow and be accommodating (no matter how annoyed you feel).
Manage your stress. Your stress is your kid’s stress. Their stress, is your stress. Breathe and count to 10 – maybe 100 upside down if you have to.
Be respectful of your coach’s time. If you are not in a one-on-one situation, you don’t have sole rights to that person. Let them do their job and respect their decisions. It’s not okay to be texting or calling them all the time, especially if it’s during a competition. If there’s an issue or something the coach wants to tell you – good or bad, they will. Which leads me to…
Don’t be a distraction. It’s not about you. And it’s not always about your kid. There’s a good way and a not so good way to be an advocate for your athlete. (See Tip 13.)
Everyone expects to be treated with respect – the organizers, judges, coaches, athletes, volunteers, and parents. It seems simple enough and most of the time that’s the case. Screaming at a coach because your athlete may not have done well or met your expectation, or going on and on loudly because you don’t like the judging outcomes is not respectful. Yelling for any reason is not respectful. Take it elsewhere. Better yet, calm down and think twice. Words are remembered, once spoken you can never take them back. You look bad, your kid looks bad, your team looks bad. That’s not the way to get attention and support.
Be mindful of the stress you’re putting on your kid. You may not think you are…or maybe you purposefully are trying to push them to excellence. Just be careful. One of the saddest things I had to watch was during the Saturday slopestyle practice a kid so paralyzed he not only couldn’t take the run, he had to sit down for almost the entire practice. He literally had a minute left to go before they closed the group’s practice time. Why? Because he was frightened of his dad if he couldn’t land his trick.
Want more tips for Nationals? Follow this series throughout the week!