Start talking to JoAnna Draper, mother of Nebraska Cornhuskers Women’s Volleyball star, Lindsay Krause, and you’ll immediately see where Krause gets her drive and determination. Draper’s description of her daughter as someone who makes up her mind about something and always follows through is easily seen in Draper herself. Draper, a mother of 3, had a successful career as a nurse and developed an interest in computers later in life, recently earning her Health, Informatics, and Analytics Master’s Degree with a 4.0-grade average.
Draper is a lifelong learner who stays busy and her top priority is supporting all her children, whether they play athletics or not. We recently caught up with Draper as part of our Live Your “A” Game interview series, where we talk to women who inspire us, whether they’re players on the field, or, in this case, someone behind-the-scenes encouraging her daughter to Live her A Game. Draper shared her experience as both a mom and mentor by giving us her tips for parenting an elite athlete.
Draper exudes ease and confidence, describing herself as someone who loves the outdoors and is “willing to talk to anyone about anything, especially volleyball.” She said she and Krause’s father were big high school athletes and sports have always been big in their family.
Krause is her middle child. “Having a daughter who is highly successful” Draper said, “It was always my challenge to make sure her brothers didn’t feel like she was my favorite. When she’s here she’s just the middle child. She’s just Lindsay. I make sure they all know I support them no matter what they do.”
But Draper quickly recognized her daughter’s passion for sports and, more specifically, volleyball. Draper described Krause as being “very tall very early,” and Draper can remember a day when Krause had softball, basketball, and volleyball games all in one day. Draper would check in with her daughter to make sure it wasn’t too much. But Draper said the response from Krause was always “volleyball was never too much.” And that’s when Draper knew volleyball was her daughter’s passion.
According to the Husker’s website, Krause, “led her Skutt Catholic High School team to four straight Class B State Championships. She was the Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019 and an Under Armour All-American in 2020… she was a part of the USA Youth National Team in 2018 and 2019,” and she made her debut as a Cornhusker as a freshman at UNL in 2021. And like her mother, Krause has no intention of slowing down.
Draper shared what she’s learned being the parent of an elite athlete over the years, and why she thinks raising healthy and successful young athletes is about more than dedication to the skills of the game - it’s also learning to cope with the mental stress of losing games, getting injured or dealing with the criticism of fans.
Here are Draper’s tips for parenting an elite athlete:
Know your kid:
Draper said it’s important to, ”know your child. What level of dedication is your child really willing to put in? Athletics is a full-time job. You’re either in the training room or in the media room or on the court, or in the classroom. It’s a full-time dedication.”
Draper’s advice is to take cues from your child and see how passionate they are about their sport. One way to do this is by having them try more than one thing. See what your child is drawn to and let them determine which steps to take next.
Draper said, “I also encourage kiddos to play in every division, you don’t have to play in division 1.” By letting your child see there are lots of options, they can choose the one that’s right for them.
Draper believes there isn’t one way to achieve success as an elite athlete. When Krause began looking at colleges, she took her time before committing. “Don’t pick the first school that makes an offer,” Draper said. “Do your homework.”
She said she was given this advice early on by Creighton’s three-time National Coach of the Year, Kirsten Bernthal Booth, and Draper was grateful for it.
“Don’t pick a school or pick a team based on name, reputation, that kind of thing. One piece of advice that I got from Coach Booth at Creighton, that I think every parent needs to hear, is that if you’re going to play college athletics you want to pick a school that if you have a career-ending injury on day 1, it’s still where you want to be. That resonated with me.” Draper said that advice has stayed with her ever since and led to Krause choosing the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
According to Draper, one of the most important tips for parenting an elite athlete is being positive.
“I think everybody needs that,” Draper said. And while she strives to be a positive influence in her daughter’s life, she said having a positive coach is also important: “You want somebody who's going to be straightforward and give you honest feedback. You have to be positive, you can’t always find the negative.”
Draper said the pressure from those on the sidelines can also be tough to deal with, so teaching kids early on to stay positive can help them get through it:
“These are kiddos. The hurtful things that people say, these kiddos are not made of steel. They hear them, they feel it. So being positive is so important in every kiddo's athletic career.”
Young athletes can focus and play their best when they’re in a calm, structured environment. Draper said it’s important to find the right coaching staff that can motivate young athletes instead of hindering their abilities.
“She wants a coach who’s going to push her, a coach that she can also be laid back with,” Draper began. A coach who’s “. . . not pacing up and down the sidelines. The ones who bring calmness to the players. Not screaming at people on the court or the field. If you make a mistake, the correction needs to come in private or in a time-out.”
And the most important tip for parenting an elite athlete? Support.
Draper said it’s not a parent’s job to coach but to be there for support. After a difficult game, Draper said, “I offer a hug, give her time to beat herself up, and then we’re done. They beat themselves up enough, you don’t need to add any salt to the wound. A hug and a chin-up go a long way for everybody.”
After talking with Draper, it’s easy to see how her tips for parenting an elite athlete led to some pretty wonderful results with Krause. Krause is only scratching the surface of what she’s going to do as a professional athlete and having such a positive and powerful force like Draper behind her, she’s got a pretty great fan base cheering her on!