Video

The video of girls first ski jump

26 Jul

You hear the endearingly anxious voice of a 4th grade girl and see a 60 meter ski jump. She is about to do her first 60 meter ski jump and we experience the event courtesy of the camera attached to her helmet. If it is still available I would encourage you to watch this Utube video last viewed 7/242013).. It is touching and instructional; touching because of this girls courage and triumph, instructional because what it can teach us about dealing with a version of performance anxiety.

How is she able to do this jump? She has of course spent hours on smaller jumps perfecting her technique, acquiring the necessary skills and so doesn’t have to think about the basics. A mastery of technique. Essential.

But what else?

She has a coach who is calm, supportive and reminds her of the key elements “don’t snow plow”. The support of family and coaches. Critical.

She finds a way to redefine this new experience of a 60 meter jump into something she is already familiar with “it is just a bigger 20”. A perspective on the situation that reinforces the familiar and her previously acquired skills. Reframing the challenge. Essential.

She does not focus on her fear or anxiety, although it is clearly present and not being denied. But rather she focuses on the future “I will be fine, I will do it” suggesting that she is envisioning successfully executing the jump. And she focus on some specifics of the task such as not to snow plowing and that you go a little faster on the end run. Her focus is not how anxious she feels and that is wise because that fear could immobilize her, but rather it is more externally focused on envisioning doing the jump and some specifics involved in the execution of the jump.

The thrill of executing the jump is transformative for her. And although not explicitly stated, we know that having a “Big Why” or compelling reason for doing something so challenging is critical for managing the understandable anxiety that goes along with it. But have patience with your children and yourself, this is a skill that can some practice and discipline to acquire. One task of childhood is learning to manage difficulty feelings, and participating in sports, playing board games or learning a musical instrument is one arena where these skills can be acquired. And if your child has an anxious disposition, she may have to put some extra time in to acquire these skills because the “what if..” questions come a little too easy and are not easily dismissed. In the end of course what we are interested in doing is building “islands of competence” for your children in whatever domain allows their potential to unfold.

Copyright@ Edward H. Plimpton, PhD

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