Olympian advice: Help young athletes ditch the disappointing debris
By Greg Bach
When U.S. Olympic snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis tells young athletes to move on from a disappointing performance fast, she means it.
Because that’s the way she races – and ditches poor outings.
“I have the biggest laundry list of failures and one of the most famous failures,” says Jacobellis, who was on her way to winning gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics until she crashed on one of the final jumps to wind up second. “I’m still at it and I’m still going for it.”
And that’s exactly the mindset the 10-time X Games gold medalist and five-time World Champion wants young athletes of all sports to grab onto.
It’s about dumping the debris and clutter that wiggles its way into kids’ minds in the wake of losses and setbacks and shoveling all the focus into that next practice, race or game.
There’s no time for self-pity and despair, and coaches need to pull their athletes out of that muck.
“You can’t perform at your best every single moment,” says Jacobellis, who has competed in every Winter Olympics since snowboard cross made its debut at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy. “I try to instill that in younger kids that I coach and the younger athletes who are on my team. Just drop it and get over it. I know how hard it is; believe me I know. But the sooner you do the sooner you can come back and be better for the next time.”
FINDING LESSONS IN LOSSES
Jacobellis is one of the most prolific snowboard cross racers ever, and she likely wouldn’t have reached that status, where once again she’s a medal contender this month in PyeongChang, South Korea, without encountering some tough moments along the way.
“Absolutely,” she says of how those failures serve as fuel. “I think that’s just life in general. You have to be failing to be learning and it’s all about how you handle those failures and how you can turn them into lessons learned and a way to develop.”
It’s all about that process great athletes reference. And Jacobellis isn’t encouraging athletes to find satisfaction in failure, just not allowing it to be overwhelming.
“It’s good to be tough on yourself,” she says. “But there’s a level of being too tough and not forgiving that it’s ok that it didn’t work out but what did we learn from this? And let’s try to apply it for next time. That’s all part of growing up and learning.”
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion Briana Scurry, author of MY GREATEST SAVE, on managing challenging moments and what young athletes in all sports can do to navigate them and stay focused on the present
Ryan Gareis, former University of South Carolina standout and current forward for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League, on bringing energy, enthusiasm and a team-first mentality at all times
Orlando Pride midfielder Chelsee Washington, founder of 90/10 Performance Co., on helping young players manage mindsets and build confidence from within to perform at their best
Erica Suter, former soccer standout at Johns Hopkins University and author of THE STRONG FEMALE ATHLETE, on helping female athletes enhance confidence, reduce injuries, and boost performance