Katrina Radke, MFT, therapist and author of Be Your Best Without The Stress, was the youngest member of the U.S. National Swim Team when she was 14 years old. She placed 5th at the 1988 Olympics, and was the United States National Swimming Champion in 1990. Here are her tips for nurturing your athletically gifted child:
"For me, I played many different sports until age 11," Radke says. "Yet, I knew that swimming was the one I really wanted to pursue. I began to train more seriously at age 11 because I wanted to see what was possible."
Radke wants parents to pay attention to what makes their children feel confident and happy. She explains, "When they enjoy something, let them pursue it. There is no right or wrong time to get heavily involved, as long as the child is enjoying him/herself and feels good. If a young person wants to step up their training and it is smartly designed in terms of what they will do, I say go for it! The main thing is that they continue to enjoy it."
Radke says, "The key is to know what you want, and realize that you might create a new balance — for instance train, study, sleep, eat, and occasional social fun. When you are doing what you love, this seems like a great life — and it is! Some people find it helps them to stay involved in other activities while pursuing their one main sport."
"The goal is to have a good community of people around you that supports you in your ultimate goal, while also building your friendships around this too. This allows children to feel supported and not feel like they are missing out on something. In the end, I would never trade my swimming experiences that took me all over the world versus trying to have more of something else," Radke explains.
Radke says, "Allow yourself, as a parent, to take care of yourself, while also being willing to grow on this journey too. There will be ups and downs. Yet, amazing experiences also occur along the way."
Radke explains,"The child needs to know that you love him/her, and that he/she can do what they love as they test their own limits and realize their gifts and power. There are no guarantees in [the] outcome, but if they feel content with their choices of how much time they spend on training versus other activities, it will be more likely that they will stay committed to their ultimate dream and feel satisfied with their results."
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