My daughter is a junior in high school. For the last two years she has been running cc as the lead runner on the team with times between 19:50 and 20:30. This year her times have quickly dropped off to 22:30 to 24:00. Seems to be no physical issues, but a lot of mental issues of fear in not being able to run, even with her own team mates that she has been running with the last three years. We (coach's/parents)seem to have tried just about every strategy to help her work through her fears and frustrations, but it seems to just be getting worse. At her meet today she was to start out slower, and then pick up the pace in the second mile, this just seem to defeat her more, stating that "she was so far behind everyone" that she just gave up and was barely moving? Ended up with a time of some where around 23:50. Then she was mad at the end of the meet and could really run! We have talked, and she said she wants to keep racing, we will support her in any way we can, but feel like we have run out ways to help her work through this. Any suggestions to help her work through the mental part of the race? The night before, she seems to be ready to run, but, you can see it in her face, when she goes to the starting line she is already defeated. Just a side note, currently the top runner on the team
(a junior) had a PR of 20:45 this season, which is right around the times that she had been running the last two years. We all just want her to be satisfied with her race, not frustrated and defeated mentally.
I had a few runners run into a mental funk like this before, and the main thing we stressed is to do something different. You tried going out slower. Maybe change the warm-up routine. Maybe stress that her job is to run with another runner, and that they are to work together.
Perhaps she needs to go out fast and see if she can hold on. A recent article in Runner's World suggested that the mental side of running accounts for 14% of performance. That's a huge amount!
The worst part about this is, you can't run for her. I know it pains you to see her struggle, but she's just going to have to figure it out for herself. One of the most powerful statements I've heard that you can tell your kid is to say, "I love to watch you run."
That's it. Don't worry about performance. Don't worry about time. Just enjoy the fact that your daughter is in a sport that she can enjoy for her lifetime. This is a sport that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Cheer her on, but don't worry so much about results. Don't add pressure, but make sure to tell her, "I love to watch you run, no matter what time you run your races in."
Happy Trails - Coach Tief