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Parents oh Parents
12 February 2016

ATHLETICS, Supporting My Athlete; 12 February 2016

State Athletic Stadium

story by Olivia VivianGymnast, 2008 Olympics, 2014 Commonwealth Games, multiple World Championships

Parents oh Parents. I really do love speaking with parents, because I myself was possibly one of the worst athletes to raise. Not only did they have to drive me to and from 10 sessions of training a week, feed me, support me, fund me etc.… But I was one of the most focused, self centered and selfish athletes that I didn’t actually thank them AND MEAN IT until I was 21 years old.

Let me just begin this story by thanking and apologizing to all parents of elite athletes out there because it’s got to be one of the toughest jobs in the world. Raising kids is hard enough in it self… but raising a talented TEENAGE elite athlete is next level difficult.

I emphasize teenage because the majority of today’s parents would be dealing with this age bracket and it is tough. We are moody, selfish, rude, focused, lazy with chores, hungry, needy and expensive to say the least… or maybe that was just me and your child’s an angel. Anyway, for those who are ‘blessed’ with the typical teenage athlete, I have a few hints on how to ‘help your athlete.’

More times than not, your athletes are juggling more than the average load. This includes sport, school, possibly work, physio, doctors and family/friends time. And of course because they’re dealing with it, so are you. It might seem daunting but being this busy can also be a good thing. It keeps your athletes efficient in a way that they will focus on what they’re doing at the time because they often don’t have time to make up for it later. The best way to reduce the stress in this hectic lifestyle is to make sure you have good routines and clearly written schedules and calendars on the fridge door. Make sure the whole family knows what’s going on for the week/month that way everyone’s on the same page and your weeks can run smoothly… well as smoothly as it gets!

Encourage your athlete. This is a fine line to walk, as you don’t want to push or pressure your child to the point where they feel like they’re doing the sport for you and not themself, but you want to support and help them reach their goals. When it comes down to high-pressure meets or races encourage us to have fun and focus on our own personal goals and improvements. My Mum would always tell me to win, and if I didn’t win she would ask why I didn’t win. She meant nothing bad by it, but eventually I felt bad if I didn’t win and I stopped inviting her to competitions and debriefing her on any comps because I didn’t want her to be disappointed or I couldn’t be bothered explaining why I didn’t win. Bow each child is different of course, I’m sharing a page from my book incase there’s some similar stories. But either way, it’s good to encourage self-improvement and small goals rather than outcome. Talent will only get someone so far; hard work and small improvements will take you all the way. 

We can... I mean we ARE stubborn and determined so we often aren’t the best communicators. We provide work on communication skills a lot with the athletes in our athlete workshops so hopefully that kicks in at home at some point.

You may not think we are listening to you at times but trust me we do hear what you say. Try to approach your child in a way that lets them know you are there for them, you support them and you love them no matter what. It’s nice to hear that you’re an ear without judgment if we need it.

Sometimes your athlete will come to you, sometimes they’ll be too hungry or tired to talk, and I guess what is more and more common these days, they’ll turn straight to their phone and enter social media world and not real world. Have some understanding that times are a little different and you aren’t always going to get a full day review from your child at the end of the day. If the technology addiction is an issue, start by making some good ground rules like no phones at the dinner table and no video games until all chores are done. Athletes tend to relate to rules with the strict nature of their sporting pathways.

I could go on and on about helpful tips to raise an athlete, but like I said everyone’s different and will react in certain ways to particular methods. Most importantly, don’t stop being a parent. Elite athletes require a world of support and they can’t reach their goals without you. If you know they really want it, don’t be shy in keeping them on track. Our motivation waivers sometimes so it always helps having someone in your corner pushing you when you run out of steam from time to time.

I know I would never have reached the Olympics and various other life goals without the support from my parents and brother. Of course it took a long time to step out of my self centered bubble and realize it, but they were truly amazing and I couldn’t thank them enough now for believing and investing in my dreams.


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