Parenting an athlete

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I wanted to start a separate section of my blog to address the mental and physical health of youth athletes. Since our oldest daughter entered high school mental and emotional health became a big point of interest and research…

My husband Konstantin was a professional competitive athlete in his twenties, now is a fitness and martial arts expert. I guess I married into fitness 🙂 and by default became an avid athlete, a certified yoga instructor and later a certified integrative nutritional therapy coach.

Fitness and wellness have always been our lives’ work. Our family’s healthy (pun intended 😉 obsession. Naturally, when we had our first daughter, Nikita in 1998, we exposed her to all sorts of opportunities, but she chose sport over arts and music. She excelled in academics and sports. She was also our first – and she was born before we understood the importance of healthy nutrition for kids. We were all about sports performance at that time, protein powders, energy pills, and body fat percentage –  and we did not think much about kids’ diets, and nutritious healthful home-cooked meals – that was not our practice. We pretty much ate out all the time, or we ate processed prepackaged meals, with an occasional salad or a soup thrown in. We were young, strong, in great shape and “healthy” – at least our bodies did not show any signs of problems yet, they were still able to detox, recover and heal as young bodies do.

When Nikita was born we both were working like crazy, busy and successful. I was not a health coach yet. That came later on, after the birth of our youngest when I developed a nice bouquet of autoimmune conditions.

Due to a lack of experience in raising kids, specifically a healthy chold athlete, we failed Nikita in nutrition support as well as being “sports parent” savvy. She still became an outstanding athlete, at age 10 she chose volleyball as “her” sport after trying everything from soccer and tennis to swimming and riding, she excelled in all but volleyball became her passion.

Nikita has always played up, she was tall, strong, coachable, with a great attitude, exceptional work ethic, and huge respect for her coaches and her sport. Coaches loved her, and teammates wanted to be like her.

She has held a job since she was 10, cleaning stalls in exchange for her riding lessons, and as soon as she could get a paying job, she started working at an ice cream shop – and she never stopped, she still works while in college. She was the only freshman on her high school varsity team. Coaches would tell us that she has a “high sealing” 🙂

She is now playing for college and is a volleyball coach. She is a generally happy well-rounded young adult. So one may say her life as an athlete is a success. But the struggles and challenges she faced to be able to keep playing her sport were numerous and potentially preventable. Three sports-related surgeries, multiple injuries (the ones not resulting in surgeries), weight struggles, infections, a weak immune system, just to name a few. More about it in my other post here. All these issues might have held her back from more opportunities. And yet Nikita grew up an amazing person and I can not imagine a mother-daughter relationship being any closer or more honest and open, than ours.

We did do a great job of not screwing her up and allowing her to blossom into an incredible mindful happy being.

In retrospect, I see so many things we as parents could have done better. Can I truly and honestly say that we did the best we could with the information we had available to us? – Absolutely! And we have learned. I am a firm believer that life is one huge experiential existence – we experience, we learn, we try, we make mistakes, we fail, we succeed, we live and we grow, we expand. Or not… some don’t. The idea I believe is to grow as a human being, grow and expand in consciousness. God does not make mistakes!

Hence, this new endeavor of mine – to write about our experience and to share our journey. Our second daughter Tessa was born 10 years after Nikita, in 2008.

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Happy tears. Nikita sees her baby sister for the very first time, fresh from the delivery room.

With Nikita’s help, as a family, we are raising an athlete. Tessa’s nutrition, her daily life, and regimen, her sleep, her habits, her schedule, her activities, her beliefs, her views on life and people, are all carefully and thoughtfully selected. It is an amazing experience except it can not possibly have any negative results. She may never grow up to be an athlete – but she will grow up a strong, balanced, healthy both physically and mentally human being and a wonderful wholesome addition to society.

To our kids’ health!

Elena

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