Raising an Olympian: It Takes More Than Interest to Excel
Olympics: Raising an Olympian requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice from the family.
Watching Lovlina Borgohain win the bronze medal in Boxing, in the Tokyo Olympics 2020, six-year-old Riama cheered the champion joyously. That night, Riama, asked her father if she could go to the Olympics.
As the world watches the Olympics on the screen, there are some who dream of participating.
“The larger-than-life image of a champion often has a great impact on parents and the child”, shares Freelance Sports Journalist, Saurabh Duggal, who runs the YouTube channel Sports Gaon.
Kids and parents want to make it big, but participating itself is a huge dream, the medal comes later.
It takes more than just an interest in any sport to excel.
Physiotherapist Dr. Deepali Sheth says, “Exceptional performance, consistent interest, a winning streak, willingness and ability to develop skills while balancing academic education are some qualities that point towards a potential to become a champion in the sport.”
Post Commonwealth Games of 2010 the awareness towards sports has increased. “Today the average viewing time for sports during the Olympics is more. It is the national pride that we feel when India wins any medal”, explains Saurabh.
Visual media is a powerful medium to create a spark in a future champion. Saurabh’s five-year-old son watches with interest and wants to play a different game every time depending on the coverage.
Curiosity kindled at a young age helps in many ways. Sometimes kids are interested in multiple sports but unable to choose. At such times, they should be allowed to pursue different sports and then decide depending on their continual interest, ability, and aptitude.
“Every child has different physical and mental capability and might surprise you with exceptional talent in some sport that might have gone unnoticed if he hadn't tried”, shares Dr. Deepali.
Raising an Olympian requires a lot of commitment for the family. Before deciding, parents should analyse the time required and the suitability of any sport, shares Saurabh. For example, to excel in basketball height is a crucial factor.
A child at a young age would be good at playing this sport. However, if members of family aren’t very tall, chances are that the child won’t be tall either and therefore not excel in the sport, he explains.
To raise an Olympian the family needs to be dedicated enough to handle physical, mental, psychological, and financial pressures. Parents are sometimes unaware of the effort required to raise a sportsman.
Finding coaching opportunities wherever you stay is the first step. “Any centre with basic facilities is good enough”, Saurabh shares. Later, depending on the child’s performance opportunities in terms of competition and skill enhancement need to be provided, he adds.
Let your kid play many sports in the initial years. Many Olympic players have played two or three games as kids. Games are interlinked and playing multiple games helps. “Sometimes you need to push your kid”, explains Saurabh.
Building a strong athletic foundation is crucial and requires properly planned training, says, Dr. Deepali. It involves nudging the child beyond his limits while balancing adequate rest with a fixed duration for training.
An ideal training should be a mix of high and low-intensity training, focusing on the type of intensity required for the sport which the child plays, she explains. Training routine should be variable and not monotonous. There should be adequate and ample rest intervals for the child to recover physically, and emotionally before the next round of training.
Balanced nutrition is essential for healthy growth and development. The diet should be rich in fibre, complex carbohydrates with a serving of lean protein, healthy fats, and fresh vegetables, she adds.
Complex carbohydrates are essential, especially before training. Intake of fluid is vital and needs to be monitored. Drinking plain water is enough for low and moderate training, but electrolyte replenishments are advised during vigorous training sessions. Following a flexible meal plan depending on the child's energy expenditure works well.
Another factor that needs serious thinking is your capability to parent an Olympian. Planning your days with training routines, driving your kid to and from the coaching centre and long waiting hours becomes mandatory.
There won't be any vacations. Considering a job opportunity in another city would require much introspection about the sports facilities, coaching and coaches. Sometimes, relocation may become necessary just to give your child a better opportunity for training.
Financial planning is crucial. Depending on the sport, the expenses would include coaching centre and private coaching fees, uniforms, and equipment. Additional expenditure happens on travel and accommodation while travelling for regional and national tournaments. Medical expenses need to be considered as sometimes the child might suffer a sport injury. Two-income families may find it easier but sometimes one parent needs to leave the job to support the child.
Olympics happen in four years, but training needs to be followed religiously. A child needs to understand the importance of continuous training and its benefits.
"Motivating the child to participate in other high-level competitions can boost his confidence", shares Dr. Deepali. This time can be utilised to analyse the performance and work on the shortcomings to perform better in the upcoming events, she suggests. The child can also complete the academic assignments that he might miss when the event is nearing
Tips from Experts
Discuss with the kid, let him try and decide.
The kid’s interest is more important than his parents'.
Training for the Olympics should be started early at a young age.
Age factor depends on the choice of a sport. For example, for shooting the child needs to be at least 10-12 years old to hold the weapon.
Dedication, discipline, and patience are key factors.
Preparation should be disciplined, but not harsh. Keep the child motivated to indulge in the sport while still giving him some time for himself.
Motivate the child to pursue other hobbies along with competitive sports.
Strong family support while winning or losing takes care of mental and psychological health.
Refrain from making the child feel that he is missing out on his childhood because of his sport to avoid any negative impact on his performance
Be careful of your behaviour as a parent
Always listen to your child and address his concerns
Teach your kid to gracefully accept failure and learn from the mistakes.
The life of an aspiring Olympian parent requires hard work, following strict routines, schedules, and giving up enjoyment and entertainment. However, the hope and dream of achieving, success, glory, and recognition compensate these efforts.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer and a life coach for mothers. She writes on environment, food, history, parenting, and travel.)
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