So you want to raise an Olympian…

Magnussen – Another 4 years

I still remember sitting in that small room looking at the fuzzy black and white image of my then 26 week old daughter. My wife and I were happy not knowing the gender, just seeing all the limbs coming out from all the right places was enough but I do remember joking with the ultrasound technician about what sport “it” would play for Australia. In my minds eye there’s much laughter as my wife looks over to me and smiles thinking how lucky she is to have landed such a comedic talent, in reality I may have just done my first Dad joke.

But Dad jokes aside, there have been a few occasions since then when the wife and I have looked at our daughter and did the “I wonder game”; will she be good at swimming? will she be a great tennis player?, will she be a soccer player, musician, artist etc. Part of the game is to figure out which of these futures put my wife and I in early retirement through the millions of dollars my daughter’s as yet un-demonstrated skill will earn her (us). On a few occasions we’ve taken the game a little further and talked about what it would be like to be the parent of a highly successful young athlete and invariably we decide that there’s got to be easier ways to get out of working for a living.

Take swimming for example. If my daughter happens to graduate from spluttering as she comes up from grabbing the rubber fish at the bottom of the pool to qualifying for the Australian Olympic team, imagine the effort/sacrifices that my wife and I would have made. Firstly, those early mornings we’re hoping she grows out of? Well try 5am, 7 days a week, all year. Swimming also has the disadvantage of only having the Olympics and (at a stretch) the Commonwealth games to make your big impression at. Look at Australia’s James Magnussen, widely touted to sweep every event he entered that will now have to wait four years to prove himself again.

What about tennis? Sharapova who won her first Grand Slam at the age of 17 started hitting a ball at four years of age and was training by the age of 7. Her immediate family’s life revolved around her chasing a fuzzy yellow ball around a court, 7 days a week and then following her around the junior tennis circuit. I’m sure that the early days, prior to her first Grand Slam win involved many more hostels than hotels and like swimming had a similar requirement for strict, parent supported training regimes. (If anyone has 30 minutes to spare there’s a great “Australian Story” about Jade Hopper – a girl tipped to be the next big thing in female tennis and how it worked out for her).

Lastly what about sports that won’t get her on the cover of sports illustrated or a cereal box? What if she’s great at trampolining, synchronised swimming or tandem slalom canoeing? There’s nothing that makes success in these sports any less of an accomplishment but a life devoted to the pursuit of success of these will probably require the working of several jobs and not much to show for it at the end.

I realise that this has been taken from the selfish perspective of preserving my own lifestyle which, from the moment my daughter breathed from blue to pink, was non-existent anyway. I’ve also not touched on how you would handle the emotional effect being a child sporting prodigy can have on their world outlook (eg Tiger Woods). And lastly, if my daughter decided that she really wanted to do something I know that I would do anything I could to let her have a crack at it, regardless of 5am starts or the potential to allow me to retire by 45.

So do you foster any glimmer of talent? If your son or daughter has a chance to make it do you help them grab it with all their might? What would you do?

PS: I realise that statistically, there’s a very small chance of me having to face this problem however if my daughter can maintain the speed that she shown running away from me at the shops, I could be in with a chance.

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21 Responses to So you want to raise an Olympian…

  1. Haha! Running away from you at the shops. Yes well, there’s a lot of mini-Olympians there!
    My son will be the next soccer superstar (although the chances of an Aussie Beckham are pretty slim) and my daughter is going to be a world famous flier in the sport of cheer … and cheerleading will be an Olympic sport specifically to accommodate her talents. Of that I am 100% sure!

  2. Good question, I would to a degree. My girls are now 6 & 8 and doing lots of things very well, but no outstandingly. I may never have to worry about waking up at 3am to take them to swimming training. Rachel x

  3. I have spoken to a few mother’s of Olympians and while we were chatting I couldn’t help but think I doubt I have it in me to raise a child dedicated to make it to that level. The dedication, commitment and hard work doesn’t just come from the child

  4. Unless she absolutely demands to get involved in sports at the highest level I’m not so sure getting to the Olympics is worth the sacrafices required. But all Dads assume their child is good enough.

    Your sounds like a gymnist to me! Go for it…if she wants.

    • morander says:

      I’m especially pleased that you are entering into the same, serious cost benefit conversation as I am with absolutely no real proof that my daughter has any sporting talent at all!! thanks for the backup!

  5. Zanni Arnot says:

    Encourage and support…If a child shows passion, parents shouldn’t be pushy, but encouraging, and help stimulate their passion and love of the sport. Nice to see a dad blog here for FYBF! (My husband is always making dad jokes too 🙂 )

    • morander says:

      Thanks for popping by. Us dad bloggers are a bit of an Aussie rarity and well done to your husband doing his bit for daddy humour.

      I like the whole encourage but not push logic – there’s a lot to be said for raising a kid that just wants to be involved!

  6. Salz Dummy Spit says:

    Nah I just let them do what they want to do just as long as i don’t have to run around every day of the week with 4 kids I’m happy. My daughter was interested in doing soccer for pssa at school. The school will take her thats fine with me. The other daughter wanted to play tennis after school two afternoons a week. No thanks. They both already do Maui thai training twice a week after school anyways so that’s enough. If they want to become maui thai black belts then i’ll be in it for that.

  7. Jo says:

    We’re starting early with soccer – not looking too hopeful, so next stop is golf to fund our dotage. He is showing promise at making up stories and manipulation, so evil mastermind may be another option.

  8. I think I speak on behalf of sporting offspring across the country when I say that a)dreams are made of parents…and b) I’m really glad mum never made me be an olympian

  9. mamagrace71 says:

    I agree with Hairy Chef – Dreams are made of parents.
    I remember all those times when my parents wanted me to be this or that. But for what and for whom?
    I have twins so if both boys take an interest in 2 different yet very early morning start types of sports…both my husband and I are screwed…

  10. Teehee at this rate my eldest will be a champion diva and my littlest will have a wonderful career in biting. Hmmm, it’s not looking good for my millions yet :s Not sure whether to take the stance of stand back and let them decide or do a little forceful strategical play and try to persuade them to try certain things. Arrrgh I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up lol

  11. Cathy says:

    Haha I guess it’s natural for all of us to wonder but I can’t see myself putting in all those hours lol. We have one son in particular who shows a natural talent in most sports he tries… but whilst a gold medal would be exciting, I don’t know whether all that pressure would be worth it! I really feel for some of our athletes – they’ve copped a fair bit in the media for not producing gold medals. What happened to it’s not whether you win or lose….but then as my eldest son says, it’s no fun losing!

  12. I struggle to consistently maintain our attendance at weekly swimming lessons so I don’t think the Olympics are bright on our horizon! I think my little one may have a better chance of being Australia’s next Masterchef than an Olympian. She volunteers a lot of time at the kitchen bench 🙂

  13. Lisa says:

    I love your description of her running away from you at the shops! I think its sweet that you have considered how she’s going to be when she’s bigger. My Hubby is convinced that Bubby will like everything that he likes and compete in the sports that he competed in and nothing else!! I like that you are much more open minded!

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