By Dr Robyn Silverman, Ph.D. for KnowMore.tv
Prepare to be amazed. The Olympians wow us with their technical prowess, their courageous risk taking and their outstanding achievements. But these behind-the-scenes videos allow us to peek in and see how they got to where they are today and what advice they were given to keep them on their Olympian path.
You may not be raising a child who is destined to become an Olympian, but there are lessons every parent can learn here about how to raise an Olympian -- in life.
Amy Purdy was an avid snowboarder but at 19-years-old, she was struck down by bacterial meningitis and lost both of her legs. She could have given up. She could have told herself that she'd never snow board again. But she didn't. In fact, Amy Purdy will be competing in the Sochi 2014 Para-Olympic Games in snowboarding, to be held March 7-16.
Here's what parents might learn from her story:
Teach your child to have faith. Amy's mother told her daughter to, quite simply, have faith. Believe. Believe in your gift, believe in yourself and believe that there is a way. But more than that, she made sure her daughter knew that she had faith in her as well.
Surround your child with love. Love underscored every facet of the Purdy family. In good times and in tough times, they were taught to love one another. This love is what helped Amy during her darkest times of recovery. When your child is surrounded by love and believes in love, she can use that love to do just about anything.
Encourage her to visualize her dream. Amy says in the video: "I could see myself carving down this mountain of powder and pulling up my pant leg at the bottom and being like 'Yeah, I did this. I've got prosthetic legs and this is possible.' I knew from that point forward that I would snowboard again. I had no doubt." When our children can see themselves attaining their goal, they can achieve that goal.
See her for her strengths. Amy asked her mother if she was handicapped. It would be easy to see her daughter that way given that she had prosthetic legs. But she didn't. She told her daughter: "I don't see you that way... If you want to walk, if you want to snowboard, you'll do it."
Don't let anyone ever tell her she can't. Notice that, in the video, Amy's mother does not define a champion by the number of wins but rather as someone who never gives up, and who doesn't allow others to tell them that they can't do it. She is talking about determination and resilience.
Nick Goepper, like Amy, was a very active kid. He was never content simply doing what everyone else was doing. After devising crazy jumps and obstacles outside of his home, he learned that he loved slope style skiing. But as a child growing up in one of the flattest states in America with little opportunity for training and growth, how could he possible become an Olympic freeskier?
Here's what parents might learn from Nick's story:
Teach your child to work hard. Nick's mother made a point in telling him that anything is possible. She always felt that: "If you worked hard enough, you could do anything." When you connect results to work your child learns that he is in control of his destiny. It's not about luck or happenstance but rather his own blood, sweat and tears.
Encourage creativity. I love that creativity has been a constant thread throughout Nick's journey to Sochi. As he says: "My mom... taught me to be creative and to overcome any obstacle in my way." He used this philosophy in creating the jumps and trails needed to learn his craft. He then used it when his father lost his job and he put himself out as a hired hand in his neighborhood. But truly; he uses it in his craft itself. As he explains: "Slope style skiing is kind of like skateboarding... cool creative obstacles that are stuck in the snow." When we teach children to get creative when they see obstacles they learn that there is a way; they just need to create it.
Let them go. There is something very powerful about allowing your child the freedom to pursue his passion. When an amazing opportunity to go after his goal was handed to him to train at Wyndell's Ski Academy, Nick's parents said: "You've got to make a break for it and go after your dream." Is it any wonder that he "broke down and cried" in that moment? While it is difficult to let your child go, when you know his happiness and fulfillment is dependent upon it, the decision becomes simple.
Talent is just one ingredient in these amazing athletes. The behind-the-scenes videos tell us that parents can really make the difference. When we believe in our children's dreams, teach them to never doubt themselves and see hurdles as challenges rather than limitations we can raise an Olympian in the games or in life.
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