I absolutely hate the term ‘pushy parents’ when it comes to young potential champions, their training and competitive regimes. I prefer the term ‘Opportunistic’, as I believe that these determined parents work very hard to give their children a chance of becoming a sporting champion.
The term ‘pushy parents’ has been earned by some parents – the type who have not conducted themselves appropriately in terms of their child’s training and competitive experiences. These parents put their hopes and dreams before their child’s, which is a very unhealthy motivation for both parent and child. There have been many high-profile examples of how this can go very, very wrong.
Parents like this often set very high, and often unrealistic expectations for their children, sometimes very early on in their journey, putting them under pressure to perform from as young as six years old. In some cases, these young children endure what could be described as physical and mental abuse – sadly brought on by excessive training regimes and unrealistic expectations leading to failure and unhelpful parental reaction.
The other important aspect of this negative type of approach is the impact it has on the parents’ relationship with their child. I’ve taken training sessions where a young athlete has not performed to expected levels, and they have reacted by crying hysterically. I asked one particular young girl “why are you so upset?” She responded by saying “I know what my dad will say and do in the car park, and he’ll keep shouting at me all the way home”.
Personally, as a father myself, this really did upset me, and I took appropriate action to address this issue. I was also really disappointed that this particular father was missing the joys of a healthy father-daughter relationship and had prevented his daughter from enjoying a healthy relationship with her father.
On the flip side, for both parents and children, elite sports can be healthy and enjoyable. Parents can guide their children in their chosen sport, provide the finances to make training possible, communicate with coaches, arrange training schedules and tournament diaries, and will do all this, with devotion and commitment to their child, for the right reasons. They will share the highs and the lows with their child, providing a parental crutch during the downs, while sharing their pride and enjoyment during the highs.
Sport can be used as a combined life experience for parent and child, presenting challenges that they will both need to manage, separately and together. It’s amazing to see the parent-child bond and relationship grow and flourish through a shared love of sport. The trust that a child builds during these experiences will last for a life time and help shape the person they become in the future as an adult.
Nino Severino – Learn Play Grow Founder