Saturday, February 10, 2007

On being a sports parent

One of the roles in life I never anticipated was being a parent of kids who are able at sport. Today my youngest has flown to Wellington on her own at age 14 to race in the Capital Classic 15oom. A few months ago she had the honour of winning the North Island Colgage Games 1500m and was approached by the Chairman of the Board of Athletics NZ who told her about qualifying for the World Youth Champs. Her PB at the time was 4.39 and she needed to run 4.32 before April 8 to qualify. Excited she came home and after a holiday, last week fronted up at the Auckland Champs. She managed to knock a second off her PB on Saturday running 4.38. She then raced on Sunday winning the 3000m and then ran in the Porritt Classic in Hamilton on Tuesday. This time she clocked a 4.34.6 meaning she needs to run 2.61 seconds faster to make it. Today she has flown down to Wellington to have a go. She is brave and determined. We are philosophical; she may make it, she may not. Even if she qualifies she may not be selected because if more than 2 qualify, then the two fastest finishers at the nationals in early March get selected.

The point of this is not to brag about her or the other two daughters who are also good runners and international sportswomen, but to say how hard it is to be a sports parent. There are tensions everywhere. There is the problem of money (take for example the previous post). There is the question of how hard to push them. Our experience is not to push them at all, but to encourage them to be self-motivated. There is the danger of trying to live your own sporting dreams through them. There is the problem of getting too involved; sport taking over life. We are Christians and there is the danger of it taking over our lives, the kids missing out on church, youth group etc. Then there is the time question. It takes time to train, to go to races. All this cuts into socialisation. Sure, there is socialisation in the sport, but there are school friends, church friends and soon to come, boy friends. It is all so complex.

I never anticipated it. Both me and my wife Emma were good athletes as kids but our parents had nothing to do with our sport. We did our own thing. Emma used to run to races, race, and then race home! No wonder she never cracked the big time. She never had a coach and her parents never came to watch her compete even though she played hockey, athletics, tennis and more and was very good! My parents weren't much better. Dad came and watched me play rugby once and said, 'you'll never make it!' Man that was encouraging.

I tend to get a bit excited and fired up, a passionate sort of guy too, which does not help! I remember years ago asking the girls, 'how do you want me to behave on the sideline.' They said, always encourage. When they made an error or had a bad race, they said, make sure you are smiling and positive when we look over!

I never saw this coming I must admit. It is tough. It is expensive. It is easy to get it wrong. But the truth is, that it is a blessing! To have kids who love sport, keep fit, get some nice results along the way, and even feel a calling from God to sport is great. I think the key is gratitude, joy (keep it fun), perspective (sport is not life) and keeping God at the centre is what it is all about.

So I hope and pray that our little girl does run a pb and qualifies. But if she doesn't we are already so proud. We are just as proud of the other two girls who at the moment are not firing at their best, but they are having fun! We will let you know how she goes. And I will keep trying to be a good sports-dad who is ever positive, not driven, encouraging, loving and making it fun.

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