Sports Parent and Child
I absolutely hate the term “Pushy Parents” when it comes to young potential champions and their training and competitive regimes. I prefer the term “Opportunities”, as I believe that parents work very hard to provide their children with the chance of becoming a sporting champion.
The term “Pushy Parents” has been earned by parents who have not conducted themselves appropriately in terms of their child and their training and competitive experiences. These parents put their hopes and dreams before their children’s. This is a very unhealthy motivation, for parent and child and there have been many high profile examples of how this can go very, very wrong. These parents typically will set very high and often, unrealistic expectations for their children. Again, often very early on in their journey, adding pressure at ages as young as 6 years old. These young children will endure what could in severe cases be described as physical and mental abuse. This can be brought on by excessive training regimes and unrealistic expectations, leading to failure and the parent reaction.
The other important aspect of this negative type of approach is the impact it has on the parent’s relationship with their child. I've taken training sessions where a young athlete has not performed to expected levels, and they've reacted by crying hysterically. I asked one particular young girl “why are you so upset?”. She responded by saying “I know what my dad will say and do in the car park, and he’ll keep shouting at me all the way home”. Personally, as a father myself, this really did upset me, and I took appropriate actions to address this issue. It also made me very disappointed that this particular father was missing the joys of a healthy father, daughter relationship. This has prevented his daughter from benefiting from a healthy relationship and support from her father.
On the flip side, elite sport for parents and their children can be a very healthy and enjoyable experience for both parent and child. You would see most relationships would fall within this category. This type of relationship will mean that the parent will guide the child in their chosen sport and provide the finances to make training possible. They will also communicate with coaches, arrange training schedules and tournament diaries, all with devotion and commitment to their child, for the right reasons. They will share the highs and the lows with their child, providing a parental crutch during the downs, and someone who will show pride and share enjoyment during the highs.
The sport can be used as a combined life experience for parent and child. This presents challenges that they will both need to manage, separately and together, whilst taking on these overloads jointly. It is amazing to see the bond and relationship between them grow and flourish. The trust that the child builds during these experiences will last for a life time and will be part of who the child will become in the future as an adult.