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What Elite Athletes Can Teach Our Kids


July 30, 2012
By: Kyrie Collins, Highlands Ranch Macaroni Kid Publisher
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Keeping Your Eye on the Goal
Whether it's being an Olympic athlete or winning the school spelling bee, achieving a goal requires a tremendous amount of commitment. Michael Phelps does two four-hour practices every day. The 27-year-old has been training for well over half his life. As a teenager, certainly there were times he would rather have slept in late or hung out with his friends. But he had been dreaming of being a swimming champion since watching the 1996 Summer Olympics and was willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Setting the Right Goal
All the training and preparation won't matter if you aren't playing to your strengths. With his proportionally longer "wingspan" and reportedly double-jointed ankles, Michael Phelps's body type seems to be made for swimming. It is unlikely he could be a successful jockey any more than most of us could be the winner of American Idol! Discovering our talents and skills, and applying them to the things we enjoy, is key to success. As basketball coach John Wooden said, "Don't let you what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

Family Matters
"I knew that however I performed, my parents would still love me," responded Greg Louganis when asked what he was thinking just before diving for a gold medal. Children naturally want to please their parents and everyone needs a fan club. They should know that we will always be their biggest fans no matter what.

Keep Your Head Where Your Feet Are
Even Olympic athletes get into fights with their best friend, do poorly on a test, or worry about disappointing themselves or others. But when it's time to compete, champions have the ability to focus on that moment. Learning to live in the moment and focus on the process rather than the outcome is a skill that will benefit your child in virtually every area of life.

Dealing with Disappointment
Oksana Baiul, Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medalist, once said, “One shouldn't be afraid to lose; this is sport. One day you win; another day you lose. Of course, everyone wants to be the best. This is normal. This is what sport is about. This is why I love it.” We all face times in our lives when things didn't turn out how we had hoped, no matter how much we prepared, trained, or studied. Focus on the achievements of all the athletes, not just the top winner. Help your child empathize with the ones who didn't get the gold and talk about what you think the athletes might do next.

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