I am not sure where to start with this topic other than as a coach and a parent I sometimes just want to hang my head in despair as I think that we have lost the simple truth that kids play sport in general to have fun with their mates.
I am a huge fan of the need to teach kids the skills they need and a passion for their sport. While wining is important the fact is that in life you win some, you lose some and you need to learn to deal with that. However if we can teach our kids a love of sport, competing and maybe instill a life long journey towards being fit health adults then it’s a win.
If you think that makes me an all about participating hippy then you are wrong. I understand that all kids develop at different stages and they actually need to be nurtured and given the best opportunity to grow into their sport. Some kids might be super stars at 12 and some at 16 and it’s a case making sure both those kids have the opportunity to be superstars as adults. Sometimes with kids sport their birthdate has more of impact rather than actual talent. The kid who has just turned 10 competing against a kid who is just about to turn 11 is at significant disadvantage. All that evens out by the time they are adults and that's when we want then to be in a position to shine on the world stage.
What’s the solution?
Personally I do not know. As a parent and a coach I am just letting my kids have fun, find their own passion and I am trying my best to encourage them to enjoy what they do. For me I am trying to expose them to as many sports as possible and if they want to try something new then that’s ok. And yes while swimming is mandatory in our house its more about it being a great skill set to have especial considering the time we spend in and around water.
I think as parents we just need to be mindful of just letting our kids be kids and have fun playing sport. And if you need inspiration on what having fun in sport is all about watch a certain Peter Sagan. I am not perfect and sometimes I get it wrong when my natural competitiveness gets the better of me and I forget that they are just kids.
My son Daniel and I are doing Cyclocross together and it is fascinating. He is 11 years old and having a great time. We are having fun and he is challenging himself in an environment that is testing him but is not about the result rather than its just having a blast. The coach in me knows if I push him he will lose interest and I also know that by focusing on the fun aspect he is slowly developing the skills he needs and there are glimpses of him developing the competitive aspects he will need later on if he pursues this as a sport. On a side note as a parent it is cool as F**k actually doing sport with him as opposed to watching.
On the flip side my 14 year old daughter is on the brink of having to decide about swimming and if she wants to succeed it’s now time. She has potential and while she is way behind the kids that are currently swimming 8 times a week she knows that she has time to make that up and get to a point where she is not burnt out when it really matters. That’s going to be fascinating to watch as she is about to find out how hard the sport is. As long as she is chasing her dream and having fun despite the hard work then life is good.
To sum up – My personal thoughts are let kids be kids, let them have fun, support and encourage them in finding their own passion and the worst case is that they turn out as fit healthy adults who have a positive attitude to exercise, sport, health and in the scheme of things that’s not a bad result.
Driving kids too hard too soon and putting too much pressure and expectation on essentially young children to me seems fraught with failure so kick back and just enjoy watching your kids play sport.
Peace put John