How sports mom Holli helped her daughter build confidence and resilience as an elite competitor.
“I wanted to ensure that if my children are pursuing a higher level of athletics, they are prepared for the toll that takes on you. Not just physically, but mentally."
Holli, mom to middle school athlete Sienna
THE INVISIBLE LOAD
The first sign of concern for sports mom Holli was seeing daughter Sienna get openly upset and react angrily on the court if she made a mistake. Her high expectations of herself caused her to lash out in frustration, not just during the game but with her family too.
"It got to the point where Sienna was biting all our heads off on the ride to and from games." Holli says, "Even if her team won, she was upset if her performance wasn't up to her standards."
The truth was Sienna was fighting to deal with pressure from all sides. As a key player on multiple teams, the weight of expectation from her coaches and teammates to consistently deliver something amazing had become unmanageable.
"She'd feel like it was her fault if they didn't win or if they didn't win by more."
As a mom, Holli felt one of the hardest parts was seeing Sienna's lack of confidence and belief in her abilities. "She was always just so down on herself."
Alarm bells started ringing for Holli when Sienna admitted she felt her teammates wouldn't know how much she cared if she didn't show how angry she was at herself when she made mistakes.
"Sienna really was struggling and needed our help.”
Working on the mental game with the Elite Competitor Program (ECP)
"I wanted to ensure that if my children are pursuing a higher level of athletics, they are prepared for the toll that that takes on you. Not just physically, but mentally."
Desperate for a solution, Holli considered pulling Sienna out of basketball if things didn't get better. That was when a friend told Holli about her and her daughter's success with the Elite Competitor Program (ECP). Sienna didn't hesitate when her parents presented the opportunity to level up her mental game. Holli was surprised by how quickly Sienna agreed to it, "It's almost like she recognized it as a lifeline and admitted she was struggling. That was really impressive to me."
"Sienna's very ambitious," Holli explains, "We told her if she wanted to take it to the next level, she'll need to do some mental training to better prepare for this pressure."
The training modules in the ECP guided Sienna through various strategies that help athletes with challenges, such as:
- Performing under pressure
- Recovering quickly from mistakes
- Letting go of anxiousness, perfectionism and comparison
- Flipping negative mindsets to create productive self-talk
- As well as many other facets of elite competition
ECP athletes achieve these outcomes as they learn to use various tools, including pre and post-competitor routines, mistake snapback, goal setting, visualisation, and how to notice, then shift, unproductive thoughts.
“What helped Sienna, too, was the realization that there's a group of athletes just like her who are struggling with similar things.”
A more confident and calm athlete
Only partway through the program, Holli has noticed a real improvement. Initially, Holli thought Sienna's apparent progress might be because the team won many of their games, "And so she's happy, you know? She hadn't had the chance to test it."
However, when Sienna had the opportunity to play at a high school level, Holli saw the real impact of Sienna's growth. Playing against older girls who were very good, Sienna stayed positive even when they were losing.
"Sienna was looking for the positive rather than dwelling on mistakes."
Sienna's teammates, too, have noticed a big difference as her thinking shifted from, "If I'm upset, my team knows how much I care." to realizing that her team looks to her, and when she's upset, they get discouraged.
Sienna now understands that staying calm and positive is what shows her team that she cares, and they respond much better. Her ability to remain calm and be a leader has positively impacted her team and their successes.
"I can see all the little things that Sienna does from the ECP to help keep herself calm. That's been really successful for her."
Transferable Skills of the ECP
The skills learned through the ECP have created an impact beyond Sienna's sport by helping manage her performance anxiety as a Cellist.
"She was excited to use the program for more than basketball," Holli says, "That was a bonus."
Holli and Sienna have also experienced a positive shift in their relationship due to ECP, which teaches a framework to moms on how to approach their daughters before, during and after games.
"I think a big part of it is understanding that those behaviors are a cry for help and seeing it as that and not taking it personally. That has been a huge benefit in our relationship. And when Sienna dumps all of her stuff on me, all her frustrations, that's a safe place for her to vent her frustrations and not a bad thing."
The ride to and from Sienna's games is so enjoyable these days that Holli and her husband argue over who will go watch.