The Parent Behind the Athlete by Lizl Kotz
Zane Potter Jackson has earned quite a name for himself in the Charleston running community. Just to name a few of his accomplishments:
4 x 800m National Champion
8 Time Junior Olympic All-American
5A State Champion for Cane Bay
The above results accumulated over seven years are solid but what has impressed me most is the way Zane carries himself during training sessions and competitions. How does an athlete maintain incredible physical and mental intensity year after year? How does an athlete crush every practice yet know his limits? How does an athlete win a lot yet maintain a sense of humility? The short answer is talent, work ethic and character. But most of us with experience in the sports arena realize there is more to it. For an athlete to be successful for many consecutive years as Zane has been, there must be a quiet support standing close by but not too close. For Zane, his mom, Rebecca Potter is this quiet pillar of support.
Q and A with Rebecca Potter
Was Zane always internally motivated or did you provide some motivation at first?
“Zane has always liked sports. As a young child he expressed an interest in triathlons. Because I couldn’t find any triathlons in our area for his age I suggested he choose one thing. Swim, bike or run. And Zane ran with the idea.”
Who makes the decisions as far as coaches, training methods, equipment etc?
“Zane makes the decisions. He researches and investigates and I listen and ask a lot of questions as he considers his options.
Is Zane prone to performance anxiety? If so, how have you helped him?
“Zane expresses feeling nervous before his races. Rituals and routines are effective outlets for his emotional energy.”
Quite often, high-performing athletes are very driven. Have you ever intervened with a training plan or schedule in order to set a standard for balance?
“I play to his strengths. Zane matches the focus and self-discipline he relies on in running to all areas of his life. He realizes that balance is what allows him to go hard.”
How have you supported Zane in his running career?
"“I attend his meets, prepare him high-caloric meals, protect 9-10 hours for him to sleep each night and tell him I am happy to have him as my kid. Win or lose, at the end of the race, he is my kid first.”
Tips on Supporting a High-Level Athlete
Let your athlete take ownership of their talent and training. Follow their lead.
Children need to know that you love them unconditionally. Showing frustration, disappointment or blame after any loss is opening the door to performance anxiety.
Unless you want your child to feel enormous pressure, do not bring up how much YOU sacrifice for their participation in sport, especially financial sacrifice.
Do not unload on your child on the ride home from competition. This is their opportunity to unload and process their emotions, not yours.
Motivating your child by using pressure tactics may work short term but this method will lead to burnout and lack of resilience in your athlete.
Encourage competitiveness and excellence. Discourage perfectionism. Teach your athlete that excellence requires mistakes and is part of the process of growing into an athlete with strong character.
Every sport has numerous famous athletes who talk about their failures and the way they recovered from it. Use stories of other successful athletes to help give your athlete a healthy perspective.
Don’t make your athlete feel like they are a big deal. Give them chores, make family time a priority. Treat them like they are a regular kid and they wont feel the pressure to prove to you that they are as exceptional as you tell people they are.