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Women In Sport. The Building Blocks Of A Positive, Confident Athlete

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Women in Sport

The Building Blocks of a Positive, Confident Athlete

What does one think of when they hear the term, "soccer mom"? In many cases a picture is painted of parents rushing their kids from one sports venue to another, all the while trying to keep to their schedule, keep the kids fed, and keep their sanity. Parental involvement is more prevalent in today's society than ever before. Parents stalk the sidelines, yell words of encouragement from the stands, and occasionally coach, weather they were officially assigned to the task or not. While the majority of parents mean well, their actions can sometimes have an adverse effect, especially in female athletics. In this article, we will discuss the female athletes' parental influences on expectations and pressures, adolescence, and perception of ability.

One of the interesting things about athletics is that talent can be seen at a very, very young age. In Europe, it is not uncommon for ten-fifteen year olds to sign professional soccer contracts. In South American Countries, kids as young as fifteen ink their names and become property of Major League Baseball. With the introduction of "Title Nine" and the constant growth of female professional sports leagues, it has never been more lucrative to put your child on the fast track to athletic success. It is not uncommon for parents to enroll their children in sports academies, buy the most expensive equipment, or even have their child play year around. With these opportunities comes pressure. These young female athletes feel the need to succeed, or "pay back" their parents sacrifices. The athlete's focus will turn to the outcome (did I win or lose?) rather than the process (development and maturation). This is why it is very important that parents monitor what they say to their child athletes'. Be very careful about getting caught up in the outcome of your child's athletic events. Always encourage your athlete and try to avoid negative criticism. Tell your child that there is no such thing as failure, only learning opportunities. Remember that your child will feed off of your emotions, if you're upset, they will be too. And finally, if your child is feeling stressed, or anxious, distract them. By this I mean change the subject of the conversation, or ask them about a movie or TV show they enjoy. Studies have shown that ice cream is a good distracter as well.

The transition from child to young adult is arguably the most stressful time in a young woman's life. Female athletes' face many obstacles, both internal and external, to success and excellence, which sometimes leads to underachievement. According to Ellis, Riley, & Gordon (2003) "Gifted girls that had shown lots of promise in childhood seem to lose all confidence and desire to participate in all physical activity when they reach adolescence... Girls who were once eager to demonstrate their ability and creativity slowly begin to hide their individuality and uniqueness, conforming to societal standards." (Ellis et al., 2003) In adolescence, the concerns over body image and appearance are at their strongest. Ellis, Riley, & Gordon (2003) also stated, "During adolescence, great emphasis is placed upon appearance and attractiveness, fueled by societal messages that beauty is of great importance, not ability... Involvement in physical activities and especially success in such activities traditionally viewed as masculine, aggressive, competitive, or physically tough. Females are then faced with a problem... if they achieve in sport... they are putting themselves at risk of being labeled as "Tom-Boyish", or "manly"... Many females experience difficulty in reconciling their femininity with a serious commitment to sport." (Ellis et al., 2003) As a parent, the first thing you need to do is understand what your daughter is going through. Reflect on your high school years and understand



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