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Surviving the Christmas Break

Parenting a teenager is a tall order at the best of times, but parenting a teenage athlete can add a whole other dimension! Here are a few tips to make the Christmas holidays go as smoothly and festively as possible.

  • Make sure that everyone knows what the Christmas training plan is and put it up somewhere visible. Whether it's independent training, or training / competition at a specific venue, it will take some planning to fit it in around family schedules.

  • Lazy athlete? Make sure you boot them out the door and get the training done, to avoid the inevitable fallout a stretch of poor / no training can bring. The post Christmas, new year lull can be depressing enough, without the realisation that they haven't done enough training and their peers are now way ahead of them.

  • Alternatively, if yours is a keen athlete, make sure you allow them to do the training required but hold them back from over-doing it. If they feel they are not doing enough, it will only stress them out, but equally this type of athlete can have a tendency to over-train. GOLDEN RULE: Recovery makes up half the training programme!

  • Holidays are a time to rest. Late rising and afternoon naps are definitely to be encouraged in order to re-charge the batteries. GOLDEN RULE: Keep lie-ins and naps short so as not to completely disrupt sleep routines.

  • Independent training can be a great opportunity to do something different. Adolescents often specialise too early in a sport they are mad keen on, and this isn't always the best thing for their growing bodies and minds. So how about skiing, skating, cycling, running, swimming, surfing, walking, pilates, zumba, dancing, wheelbarrow races, climbing, spinning, football, cricket?...... I could go on, I'm sure you get the idea!

  • Eating well is a priority for a growing athlete, but Christmas is definitely a time to indulge in a few treats. So serve up their five a day – parsnips, carrots, sprouts, cranberries and satsumas, but do allow a few chocolates, mince pies and slices of cake too.

  • Is your athlete of an age where they might indulge in alcohol? Well Christmas is definitely a heavy drinking time of year in our culture, but beware any bouts of binge drinking at Christmas parties that will give your athlete's immune system a huge knock and often lead to post party illness and missing training. Making mistakes is the best way to learn so if they have got a bit the worse for wear and suffered for it, make sure it's a learning experience and not brushed under the carpet.

  • New Year is a time of resolutions and change. Take the opportunity to talk to your athlete about their sport. What do they want to achieve in 2019 and what role do they need you to play in achieving their dreams? Be brave and ask them if there is anything that you do that they find difficult or embarrassing. Some athletes go through their whole junior sporting career dreading Mum or Dad turning up to spectate, but never brave enough to say “Dad, I find it really difficult when you argue with the ref” get the picture!

  • And last of all, take stock. The over-riding driver for doing sport should be fun. It's never going to be fun 100% of the time, but your young teen should be enjoying most of it. AND so should you, and your other children. Ensure that you've got the balance right and that the whole family is having a positive experience of your child's sport with everyone having fun and learning great life lessons along the way.

And I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your young athletes a very Happy Christmas and a fulfilling new year!

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