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Raising your child's game through competition

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Try This At Home……………………………

Here is a great way to help you child improve in a sport or activity that he or she is already interested in and good at.  Find out who is the most celebrated person in that sport or activity and do some serious research on them. (Research them on the Internet, watch videos of them, etc.) Analyze the specific things that make that person successful and encourage your child to emulate and model them.  Have your child work on improving those characteristics or skills you identified.

Next, find someone locally who is just a little better than you child and, if possible, have your child practice with him or her on a weekly basis.  Encourage your child to learn from them.  Monitor the situation to make sure you child is having fun and isn’t getting frustrated.


Competition makes you better.  If your child is always the best player on the team or in his or her league, then they aren’t being challenged and pushed to improve. If at all possible, find someone for you child to train with who can push and challenge them.  This will prevent their progress from becoming stagnant. Without competition your child ends up a big fish in a small pond. Later, it’s hard to move from the pond, where he or she is the star and accustomed to winning, to the lake or ocean, where he or she is just a little fish and won’t necessarily find success immediately.  (It’s not a bad idea to get a realistic idea of what you child can expect when they bump up to the next level, but I’ll save the details of that for another post.)

My first year training at the Olympic Training Center was a gradual immersion into the world of elite international racing.   My second year however, felt more like getting thrown into the deep end of a pool to see if I’d sink or swim.  Thankfully I didn’t sink, but that was in large part because I was training with stronger, more experienced women.  They pushed me every day, physically and mentally, and their presence both encouraged and forced me to raise my game if I wanted to succeed.

I vividly remember a training day at a World Cup selection track camp in Plano, Texas. Nicole Reinhart*, Karen Dunn and I were all vying for a spot in the points race at the upcoming World Cup, and each work out was considered by the coaches in selection. This particular work out was on the velodrome (a cycling track.) Our coach was driving the motorcycle and we were taking turns coming around the motor and leading out sprints to the finish line.  The goal was to win the sprint.  Karen and Nicole were much more experienced than me.  For the first few sprints my timing was all off; I would either go hard too soon, or I would kick too late.  I’ve very competitive, but instead of getting frustrated I tried to figure out what the other girls were doing that I wasn’t.  We were rotating through and taking turns leading out the sprints, so every third sprint I had an opportunity to watch them from behind.  I noted how they made their moves, when they made their moves, and how successful they were at it. I started copying their successes and by the end of the workout I was winning sprints. 

That year I trained with, lived with, and vied for spots against those same women, over and over again.  As difficult and stressful as it was at the time, it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me, because I never became complacent and improved immensely.

Later on in my career I didn’t have that same benefit.  I found that training with guys was another way to raise my game.  This is one advantage women have over men, women always have the opportunity to train or practice against someone stronger and faster than them, because they can train with the men. 

I am grateful that I learned this lesson early on in my career. If you child has aspirations to make it to the next level, then he or she needs to constantly be looking for ways to improve.  Training with and modeling after people who are better are great ways to do that. Just like in a free market, we all benefit from healthy competition.

* Nicole Reinhart was a fantastic road sprinter, fierce competitor, a good, kind person, and someone I looked up to and admired. Her life was tragically cut short in a cycling accident during a race on September 17, 2000.  I’d like to dedicate today’s blog to her memory and encourage you to visit www.nicolefund.org for more information about her.

For more information about me or my children's books, please visit www.erinmirabella.com.