Helping Student Athletes Navigate Emotions

Aviva's graduationDo you remember your high school experience? What was it like? How would you like to go back there?

For some it was a joyful time; others wouldn’t relive it for anything. Most of us experienced some anxiety; just the process is fraught with social pitfalls, developing mind, rapidly changing body… Add high school, jobs, pressure to decide on the future, and you’ve got a perfect storm.

We change more during adolescence physically and mentally than at any time except during our first two years of life. Luckily most of us don’t remember that; but we cried a lot. By adolescence wailing is frowned upon. Unfortunately.

Crying babyHigh School students face unique stressors. With rising costs of everything from snacks to higher education, college looming, and a languishing pandemic, it’s more important now than ever to support young people.

Next Step partnered with The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) to create ten mindfulness and movement cards for student athletes. The cards emphasize calming anxiety, and improving performance. IHSAA asked me to present at their Conference in early September. It was cool to see how excited the kids were to get the cards.

Now, I don’t identify as a teen or anything close, so preparing for this presentation caused more than a little anxiety for me. How to bridge that generational gap? I began by talking about when I was a teen, shared some funny videos, as well as my teenage angst towards my mother about her incessantly harping on me to keep my room clean (I love you mom!).

Then I talked about less dramatic subjects–like the role of our emotions in life and development. How we often sort our emotions into “good” and “bad” categories. But is that actually helpful or does it interfere with our healthy processing all those feelings constantly passing through our consciousness? Emotions inform us of what we need.

Though fear, anger and sadness aren’t particularly pleasant, they give us valuable information about the world around us, and inform us that we need to do something. Whether we need to run away, stand up for ourselves, or have a good cry, rushing away from “bad” feelings might keep us from experiencing life in a healthy way.

Here are some guidelines for talking about feelings; yes it’s hard. Better yet, get your very own set of Activity Cards by following this link.

Feelings aren’t good or bad. They just are.

Emotions are never wrong so no one can argue with them.

Do our emotions always match the situation? No, and that’s okay. We’re only human.

Are some emotions harder to sit with than others? Yes.

Emotions are not gendered.

Can one gender be more attuned to their emotions? Yes, but only generally. There are always exceptions.

Our emotions are uniquely our own. Experiencing their full range and depth contributes to a full life. Sharing them honestly and freely with those around us builds our capacity to learn and grow.

Teenage Ashley & friend

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