Winter Olympians Share Personal Insights for Rewarding Seasons

By Greg Bach

The upcoming Winter Olympic Games – which get going in Beijing in February – will showcase some of the world’s greatest athletes delivering performances we’ll remember forever. 

So, sit back and enjoy the events with your young athletes, and use these golden insights from current and former Winter Olympians from Team USA to help guide them to fun and rewarding seasons of their own this winter, and beyond:

Savor the Process:

“I stay in my own world,” explains four-time Olympian Katie Uhlaender whose event – the skeleton – involves hurtling head-first on a sled down icy tracks at speeds of 90 miles per hour. “I think if you put a lot of meaning behind your performances that’s where the pressure comes from, but if you can stay within the passion of the sport as a kid, where you’re not really worried about winning or losing, or what people think, and you’re just enjoying the act of sport – that’s the best way to go.” It’s a never-ending process for all athletes at all levels to push the focus away from the results and dial into the process. “I’ve been honing this in more and more because the more I focus on results, or what it means, or what my performance means, or what the world is thinking, that’s a scary place to go,” she says. “But if I just get to the line and I’m like ‘all right, I’m just going to do what I know how to do – I know how to go sledding and I love it’ – and I focus on that, I tend to perform well and I have fun. And I think those two things should be the goal – not winning.”

Latch on to Lessons:

Our parents never defined success by wins or losses, or if you made a team,” says 2018 Olympic hockey gold medalist Jocelyn Lamoureux, who also won silver medals with Team USA in 2010 and 2014. “It was always about your work ethic and if you were a good teammate. I think so many lessons can be lost if success is defined by winning. That just puts unnecessary stress on kids, and I really think you lose the value of what’s important about sports.”

Reflect & Refocus:

My greatest knowledge came through my failures,” says 2014 Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus Pace, who competes in skeleton. “Reflecting is a huge role in helping us learn from our mistakes. I’d go back and ask myself what went well, what didn’t go so well and how can I improve tomorrow? I just started picking it apart and putting the puzzle together.”

Editing Endings:

Three-time Olympic speedskater and 2010 bronze medalist Allison Baver, who broke her leg a year out from the 2010 Games, advises athletes who are returning from serious injuries to spend time re-working in their minds what actually happened in the competition so they’re free of the clutter and ready to compete with confidence. “I had to take myself in my visualization through that crash and that race and changing the outcome,” she says. “It’s almost like your blueprint is being changed in a way where you have to re-program your brain and re-program your thought pattern of what happened.”

30-Minute Rule:

Young athletes take losses hard, so allow them a brief period to work through the disappointment. “I give myself 30 minutes to be mad and to be frustrated and to beat myself up,” says U.S. skiing great Stacey Cook, a four-time Olympian. “If you didn’t do as well as you thought you should or you let yourself down, it’s ok to be mad about it. But I put that time limit on it because in the end it doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t make you better and it doesn’t make you try harder. Really, the only outcome of being mad at yourself is that you bring yourself down. So, I give myself a 30-minute window and then I make myself get over it.”

Greg Bach is Senior Director of Communications & Content at National Alliance for Youth Sports.

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