5 masks your athlete might be wearing

By Janis Meredith | Posted 9/26/2018

Your athletes care about what their coach, peers and supporters think. And because they care, they’ve developed masks that will help them please and impress those people.

But keeping up that performance is draining for your child and may even add to the stress they already feel when playing sports. It is very draining to act one way when you feel another.

Here are five masks that your young athlete may be wearing. It’s time for them to take the masks off.

1. The Everything is A-OK Mask

Have you noticed what kids post on social media? Much of it conveys that everything is going just great in their world. But sadly much of that is a performance.

If we’re being honest, we must admit that we all do it. We pretend we have it all together, that everything is just fine.

But our real lives can never be as perfect as we’d like to portray. Your child may not want their peers to know they are struggling with sitting the bench or they secretly don’t want to play sports, but Mom and Dad insist they do.

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Help your child understand that being honest about themselves opens them up to deeper and more authentic relationships.

2. The I am Strong; I can Handle This Mask

It will be tough for your child to cope with everything life throws at them. From the outside, they may seem to be handling it stoically.

However, it’s amazing how many people pretend to be strong even when they are collapsing inside. Your young athlete is no exception.

Help your child understand that it’s okay to not be strong. It’s okay to need help from people. It’s good to let the people that love you, support you and carry you.

3. The I Don’t Care What My Parents Think Mask

Your child may claim they don’t care if you come to the game or they don’t care what you say about how they play. They may not want to let others see it tears them apart inside knowing you are very hard to please and always have something critical to say about their performance.

Their defense mechanism is to shrug it off and act like they could care less. But for most kids who resort to that response, it’s just an act. Because most kids that I’ve known DO care about what their parents think.

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My husband, who’s in his 50s, says he doesn’t care how hard his dad is to please, but I know that there’s still a little boy inside of him who wants to please his father. Wanting to please the parents is a default that’s hard to outgrow.

4. The Nice Guy Mask

Like most people, your child wants to be liked. If they are a people pleaser, they will sacrifice their own happiness to make others happy. They may fear if they put their own needs first, they will alienate friends and acquaintances.

When my oldest daughter was in high school, she went teepeeing with some friends in our neighborhood. One of her friends accidentally broke a window and when they got caught, they had to split the cost of the window repair. Rather than keep after her friend to pay their share of the damage, she ended up paying for it herself because she didn’t want to keep bugging her friend. She was afraid that her friend would no longer be her friend if she did. That “nice guy” mask costs her over $100!

5. The Antagonist Teen Mask

There’s always a reason for that chip many kids wear on their shoulders. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” The attitude that screams, “I don’t care what you think, and I will do as I please” is masking another issue.

Coaches and parents who support unconditionally, practice tough love, and who refuse to let the mask scare them off are the ones who will eventually succeed in helping a teen remove it.

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When you see one of these masks on your young athlete, make it a point to have a heart-to-heart conversation about it. That opportunity may not come immediately, but when it does, jump on it. Help them understand that masks are a sign of weakness and will keep them from forming strong relationships and growing to their potential.

 Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.