Why Our Olympic Parents are Extraordinary
You don’t have to be a diehard supporter of the Olympics to be moved by the story of Ellia Green and her mother Yolanta. Mum inspired sprinter Ellia to swap track and field for Rugby Sevens and the rest is history. Ellia is now an Olympic Champion!!
Yolanta’s commitment to her daughter’s dream has been repeated throughout the Olympic Games coverage. It is a special kind of parent who will rise in the still moments before sunrise to drive their children to the local pool, oval or gymnasium. Perhaps they grab a few extra hours of sleep in the car. Or wait patiently, on uncomfortable stadium seating, for the hours to pass while their children train. Then it is back home again to a hurried breakfast. Then the trip to school before repeating it all later that same day.
There is nothing glamorous about being the parent of an athlete. Parenting is hard at the best of times. The commitment to a child’s sporting dreams can be at times both thankless and frustrating.
We hear the stories of the ugly parent. The individual who is over involved in their child’s success and unnecessarily critical of mistakes and losses. But most sporting parents are like Yolanta; compassionate, supportive and loving.
Parents like Ken Skinner, whose daughter Catherine just took Olympic Gold in shooting. He took the time to introduce Catherine to clay shooting as a 12 year old. He then spent the last 14 years, with his wife Anne, fostering and supporting Catherine’s love for shooting on her way to Olympic Gold. Not because they ever had dreams that Catherine would ever become an Olympic Champion. But because shooting was something she grew to love.
In today’s technology driven world it is easy to hand a child an electronic pacifier and keep them “out of their parent’s hair”. Too much screen time however, can lead to both academic, psychological and social difficulties. The parent’s commitment to their child’s sporting future is a much harder prospect.
Most parents will never see their children rise to the status of Olympian, but they are just as invested in good parenting as those who do. They understand the important role that sport plays in the life of their children. Our sporting children are shown to have higher levels of self-esteem and body image. They are more able to focus and concentrate at school post exercise. This leads to improvements in cognition and learning.
Sport is a vehicle for real life friendships, the development of emotional intelligence and pro social skills. Our sporting parents know all of this. At some point in their lives they make a conscious decision to place their children’s development above their own. This is what real parenting is about. Not the gadgets and material processions given to a child. It’s about acts of service with no expectation of a return on investment.
I salute the parents of all of our Olympians.