A children's competition also affects the parents

27. July 2017

Have fun and be there: while everyone knows these are the two most important rules when children take part in sports events, they are always forgotten. Not by the children, but frequently by their parents, who suddenly get gripped by competition fever and end up infecting the children. The most important tips when your children want to participate in an endurance sports competition.

Dampen their expectations

In the run-up to a competition, give children the feeling that by participating in the race they have already fulfilled all the parents’ expectations and everything else is a bonus. The child should be able to compete light-heartedly without any pressure to achieve a predetermined result. The real fun lies in participating, the result is of secondary importance.

Prepare them for requirements

Many children are unable to estimate the duration of a running competition or a triathlon, for example, and as they don’t know how to divide it up, they take off like rockets at the start. They then become all the more frustrated if they lose their breath after a few metres already or end up getting a stitch. It is therefore good to get the children to complete the length of the competition route in the form of a playful test during training so they can get a feel for how long they approximately need to compete. When training, try to get the child to complete the length of a route in such a way that he/she is able to maintain a constant speed over the entire duration and doesn’t run the first half much faster than the second. 

Simulate the route

In order to economically divide up a competition, it also makes sense if the child knows what to expect. Does the route of the competition have a turning point? Then you can tell him/her not be too bold when running the first half and to only speed up after the turning point. In the case of a triathlon, he/she should practise his/her hand movements during the transition, however, it is best to do this as little as possible so the child is not overtaxed in the hustle and bustle of the competition. Ideally he/she should get on the bike in his/her swimming gear and then run like that that instead of planning too many clothes changes, which will only confuse.

View the conditions of the competition on location

How many laps need to be completed until the finish? And where exactly does the route go? Where does the swimming take place, where is the transition zone? Children (as with most adults) are not very receptive in the heat of the moment and panic quickly if something goes wrong. For this reason, it is good if you view the most important conditions in advance with your child so he/she can memorise it well. The "racing tactics" should primarily be discussed in such a way that they work well and not to the effect that they buy fractions of seconds.

Take the character of the child into account

Some children are by their very nature extremely ambitious in sports competitions, whereas others perform according to their mood. Some intuitively allow themselves to be properly guided and prefer to tackle a competition without any stress, others want all the possible variations to be clarified in advance before they feel secure. Try to do justice to the child’s character. For those with an ambitious nature, let the result take a back seat and motivate the child to primarily listen to himself and to not necessarily look to the others for guidance. You may need to prepare carefree children for the most important points so they are not surprised. And motivate the child (as long as he/she is not in any pain) to keep going right to the finish if possible, even if everything is not going to plan.

Restraint in the competition

While cheering is good and motivating, screaming three instructions in the ear of the child in the same breath is of little help. Let the child make his/her own experiences. Perhaps he/she may then take a few seconds longer than with your help, but in return will have managed the competition alone. Just as adult athletes need many races before they know what works well or not so well for them, children and young people also need their own experiences in order to make progress. Let your child gather these experiences and try to behave as inconspicuously as possible during the competition!

Fear of overexertion

Just like adults, children can completely wear themselves out for a short time, but this is not dangerous. Unlike adults who, especially when it comes to long periods of exertion, control a lot with their head and can thus manoeuvre themselves into tricky situations with their inflated ambition, children are much more intuitive. Although they can push themselves to the pain threshold in the short term, if it hurts for long they will automatically lower the level of intensity. So, you don’t need to worry that they are overexerting themselves. At the finishing line, give your child enough time to catch his/her breath and recover. Make sure that he/she intakes sufficient energy as quickly as possible with drinks and/or something to eat. And naturally whatever he or she feels like as a reward!