Seeing athletes achieve new heights gets everybody excited about sport. It remains the one example of what we as humans can really do if we give it a shot. The sportsmanship, success and pride fill our hearts.
Inevitably, kids look at it and start to dream about it. 12 or 16 years from now a kid from some small town will win a medal and refer back to a moment at the Olympic Games that kickstarted his/her dream.
So, as parents you play the most important part in guiding your kid to the abovementioned success. Of course there are no guarantees. But it will also not happen by mistake. This is not the lottery.
So, what can you do to give your kid the best shot of progressing through the ranks?
Firstly, chill. This is a long game. Anything you do must be sustainable. Take your time in figuring out what you can do, where you are, with what you have. Don’t be overwhelmed with the magnitude of the task ahead. Don’t lose all perspective. But get a plan on the table.
Then, start installing good habits in your kid’s life. Get them to take ownership. It’s their dream and they must make it happen. Take care of the basics: good nutrition, physical conditioning, good coaching. Add mental conditioning if they struggle in that area.
As early as possible, make an agreement: you will match their commitment. In no way can you drag them along. The road is too long. Be tough. But if you see they are slipping, re-evaluate. Too many people keep dead dreams alive.
I am not talking about them not achieving. They will have bad periods in their careers. I’m referring to their effort level. Are they increasingly doing the work? Are they showing up?
Expose them, don’t protect them. They must attain skills you only get by competing, winning, losing, having disappointments. It’s an exercise in grit. Those who get up and keep going will at least have a shot.
Evaluate patterns. See what works. Don’t be ignorant and leave everything to a coach. You remain the parent. If something isn’t working, address it. They need to progress. If they are in a rut, change something.
Educate them about their sport. Introduce them to the environment they want to be a part of. Bridge the gap between their current situation and where they want to be. If that gap seems too big, they will struggle to maintain the belief.
Allow them to check out by checking in from time to time. Not weekly. But maybe every 6 months. Talk about it. Are they still committed? Do they find it fulfilling? If those aren’t present they’ll struggle. They must know that you’ll be OK with it if they don’t want to continue.
Your dreams at 10 or 12 won’t necessarily remain your dreams. But if you are serious about them, give them a proper shot.