Wondering how to raise an athlete? Who said your kids can’t someday rake in the dough for you, and rake-it-in in the millions? It does not have to be a far-fetched fantasy to desire to see your child as the next big thing in sports.
Here’s a less-known yet no-less inspiring story of a little iron girl, Mayumi Shinozuka, who started to compete in junior triathlon events at the age of seven. She won an aquathlon competiton at her first attempt at competitive youth sports. Clearly, it pays to put your kids in sports. But how do we get from the start and victoriously sprint to the finish line?
How to raise an athlete tip 1: Start them young!
Famed athletes with household names like Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Nicol David have one major thing in common – they started young! Tennis pro Serena began playing when she was five, Tiger dabbled with golf balls before the age of two and Nicol embarked on the squash wagon at five.
How to raise an athlete tip 2: Observe, not dictate
Recognize the interest in your child when they partake in various forms of kids’ sports. Your kid will naturally gravitate toward a specific kind of sport. Don’t make your kid engage in a sport that you love — just because it is your dream sport. Mayumi began to compete in triathlon events because it sparked an excitement within.
How to raise an athlete tip 3: Not about winning
Don’t force your child to win! The process matters more than the end result. Like Mayumi, instead of exerting for the win, she’d learn from her mistakes and get psyched for the next competition with extra preparation.
Dr. Robin McConnell, an expert in the fields of sports coaching, sports development and sports leadership says:
“Sport is not so much a competition between our bodies as a celebration of them. This belief shows a coach who sees sport for children as a time when kids can delight in their bodies, learn to use their physical abilities and explore their bodies’ potential.”
He also advised: “The competition and its results are not given the same priority as the opportunity for children to participate in all aspects of their sport. Celebrating our bodies is done through the joys of running, throwing, kicking, passing, or hitting a ball, movement, passing or sharing with friends in the team and exploring contested space.”
It is the experience in its entirety that enriches your child’s life. Mayumi made friends at different competitions, although rival competitors, friendships were never affected.
Make sure your child does not get over-saturated in their choice sport—you don’t want your kid to burn out! That is why Mayumi occupied herself with handiwork as well as helped around the house doing chores with her mom. Balance is key.
How to raise an athlete tip 4: Be ready for challenges
Before Mayumi had learnt how to swim, she had fallen into the pool which resulted in her developing a fear when surrounded by a large body of water. Knowing how much the incident impacted Mayumi, her mom did not hesitate to bring her for swimming lessons to help her overcome her fear.
How to raise an athlete tip 5: Keep their fire lit
Make sure your kids are getting enough exercise daily.
Motivate your kid but go light on the pressure. Your kid may not know what’s best for them, so you call the shots. Intensely fond of food, the little iron girl binged on snacks at home and failed to control her weight when she stopped her intensive training. Mayumi had actually opted to “retire” after winning her first gold medal in swimming.
Parents, it is your job to urge them on. Mayumi’s mom said: “Swimming is a very hard and competitive sport as they have to keep training almost all year round while maintaining their own records and swimming speeds. If they take leave, they would need intensive training when they return to catch up on their previous records.”
So how to raise your child to be an athlete? Well, hard work, devotion, buckets-full of sweat and tears will come into the equation. Who said that great accomplishments come easy?