Parents quit pushing your kids

2009-05-13 13:49
Sport24 columnist Roland Schoeman (File)
Roland Schoeman

Since returning to South Africa after the Olympics it has become blatantly obvious to me that some coaches, teachers and parents are severely hampering the development and overall performance of the sporting youth in South Africa.

Parents are living vicariously through their children now more than ever. All you need to do is go down to a school’s rugby festival and see the over involvement of some of the parents. I can understand the need for playing a part in their children’s sporting exploits, but to see parents screaming at their children for performing poorly is unacceptable. That is not a parent’s job. The job of the coach after every game is to talk to his/her team and address any specific issues. These issues could range from dedication, overall performance or even a required commitment. A parent's role should be a supportive one. Not a forceful one. If their children are lazy and uncommitted, parent’s can assume the role of a motivator and encourage their child.

I was very fortunate enough to have the opportunity to train with Mike Bottom, the world-renowned coach who coached the likes of Gary Hall and Anthony Ervin when they tied for gold in the 50m freestyle at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Mike had noticed that I had a tendency to be overly critical of myself and he wanted to know where this critical attitude had come from. He wanted to understand where the phrase 'I’m doing this/that wrong had come from'.

One of the most significant reasons I believe was as a result of an English teacher I had in Standard 7 (grade 9). I was scheduled to go away for a SA Schools swimming championship and I had arranged to hand in an essay late. When I eventually received my grade I had been given a fail. I enquired about the failing grade and the teacher said it was due to the fact that I’d handed in the essay late. We had a back and forth disagreement about the issue and it culminated in him saying “Mr Schoeman, you will never amount to anything in your life”.

Overly critical

It was at that point where I decided that no individual or group of people would ever be able to determine my successes and failures. I was the only one that had that right. Based on this decision I believed I had to become overly critical about everything I pursued and everything I worked on.

What I didn’t realise at that age was the destructive patterns that were being created within me. I began to see everything as either right or wrong. If you don’t win it is wrong, if you win it is right.

Mike looked me in the eyes and told me something so plain and so simple. He told me there is never anything wrong, but there is always something you can do better. I needed to stop seeing everything in terms of these rights or wrongs and start evaluating my performances on what I had done right and what I could’ve done better. We began to focus my training and way of thinking on his idea of rights and can do betters. I’m eternally thankful to him for helping me identify this destructive pattern within me.

How often are coaches and parents directly involved in perpetuating the thought patterns that say it’s right or it's wrong as opposed to the good and better ideal?

I now revert back to my earlier question. How much damage are we doing to the sporting youth of this country? Coaches and parents I urge you to create an environment of success for your children/athletes. Encourage, support and help develop the athletes of tomorrow. Be positive around your children and athletes. Help them identify their strengths and their weaknesses. Help them to understand that there are always areas to improve upon and their commitment and dedication will determine their success at the end of the day.

Roland is a multiple Olympic medal winner... and an avid Blue Bulls supporter.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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