Encouraging A Sports-Gifted Child – And How Not To!

Sports-Gifted Child, does and don'ts, tips, pitfalls, parents, pushy parents, positive reinforcement, positive results,

Pride in your kids, as a parent, is one of those few times in life when that emotion is justified. When your child achieves something, for sure it’s their triumph, their achievement. You, though, can be proud of them, and feel that you as a father have done something right. At this point, you can go in a number of directions. You can be the proud parent, encouraging your child and celebrating with them. Alternatively, you could be the bad version.

The Nightmare Pushy Sports Parent. We all know one. Don’t be one.

If your child shows an aptitude for golf, it’s worth encouraging. As games go, it’s one with relatively few worries attached, and more serene than most. You don’t have to get hung up on the idea they might get seriously injured, for one thing. Unlike with many school and college sports, there isn’t a doping problem either. So you’ve lucked out. If they need a golf Rangefinder, it’s worth the outlay – and much less than you’d be paying out if they were great at skiing. Take the win here.

Look Out For The Pitfalls

Tiger Woods’ father, Earl, was a strict disciplinarian who coached his son from an early age. A child prodigy, Tiger’s talents were obvious even to casual observers. Earl’s coaching methods, including long hours of practice and denial of treats, are credited with seeing Tiger win a career grand slam by the time he was 33 – and his becoming a divorced, deeply unhappy cautionary tale by his early forties. Make sure your child knows that, while winning is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all.

It’s something that can happen in the non-team sports, due to the intensity of one-on-one competition. Jelena Dokic announced herself on the tennis scene at 16 by annihilating defending champion Martina Hingis at Wimbledon in 1999. Less than a decade later, she was estranged from her father Damir, whose control over every aspect of her life caused her career to collapse (notably improving once she parted ways with him).

Positive Reinforcement, Positive Results

It’s a sad truth that behind so many of the prodigious talents who hit the public eye in their teens, there are stories that lead to their becoming unhappy adults. Your role as a parent is to be a parent, and if you choose to coach your child in a sport, your main challenge will be keeping sight of that. If they twist their ankle, it’s not a tournament missed – it’s a son or daughter in pain who needs a parent to console them.

By no means does this mean that you can’t see their sporting talent as something to encourage. That kind of talent can open doors for them, and any parent wants the best for their child. Don’t try to stand in their way if they want to pursue a career in sport. You may have dreams of their becoming a lawyer or a doctor and making a good living that way – but those jobs carry their own stresses, long hours and tough lessons too. Just remember that balance is the key, and trust them to know what they want.

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