It was the night before her first high school track meet. She had done really well pole vaulting in junior high, even breaking the school record. She had anticipated the chance to compete at the high school level for years.
The meet was an open invitational and only a handful of athletes from Abington were going. My husband was taking her, which made sense as he had been a junior Olympian pole vaulter back in the day.
We sat down to dinner and I asked how everyone’s day had been. When it came time for her to speak, there was silence. I looked over and saw tears welling up in her eyes.
“I’m afraid,” she said, trembling.
From the other end of the table, my husband assured her she would do great; that she had nothing to worry about, and then went into details about the kind of scores she might anticipate getting.
“But what if I don’t?” she said. “My coach said he will be looking for my scores, and so did the coach from the university.” She had trained with college-level coaches at summer camp for several years and they assured her they’d be keeping tabs on her now that she was in high school. “I don’t want to let them down.”
I tried to talk to her about thinking positive, relaxation techniques and anything else I could think of, but she just shook her head, closed off by anxiety. She barely ate and went to bed early.
After I did the dishes, I found a few minutes to search online for ideas of how to help her and found an article I had recently read on The Huffington Post detailing five “hacks” or tips from Olympic athletes that help boost performance and manage anxiety. They included visualizing success, meditation and shutting down negative inner-self talk. I copied it to a text and sent it to my daughter, who was lying in the dark just a few rooms away.
The meet turned out to be a fulfilling and wonderful experience. She found the community of athletes and coaches to be supportive and encouraging.
I was glad she had been able to manage her stress this time, but realizing we have a long road ahead full of all kinds of opportunities for performance-based stress, it got my wheels turning. I was pretty sure that there are psychologists and therapists that work with these issues, but thinking about what that would cost began to cause me debilitating stress.
Soon after, I saw a posting on Facebook that sparked my interest. Jennifer O’Neil, also known as Om Girl, was offering a teens’ workshop on the Law of Attraction. The class would inspire, encourage and empower teens to create the life they choose through positive thinking. Jennifer, based in Clarks Summit, is a motivational speaker and expert on guided meditation.
I had heard friends rave about how she helps people to guide their energies in positive ways to create the success they dream of. She frequently holds gatherings at places like Duffy’s and the library, free and open to the public, where people meet to share and encourage one another with her guidance. My kids had attended one of those and found it fun and inspiring.
I asked my teenagers if they were interested and they both jumped at the chance. My high school athlete said she would love to work on handling her stress in meets. For the first time, she mentioned that article I had forwarded her, and said that reading it had really helped.
Two classes into the four-week workshop, they are both talking about how meditation is helping them to change negative thoughts to positive. More than once I have seen them retreat to their bedroom to meditate. As someone who has long believed there is power in these spiritual pursuits, but has never taken the time to really learn the skills to harness it, I am so glad to give them this gift.