With the 2012 Olympics starting soon, I’ve been reflecting on the experience of raising elite athletes. I always thought it was ironic that I raised two figure skaters who competed internationally. Will made it twice to the Junior Grand Prix Final in pairs, and Christina competed at Worlds in ice dance.
I was actually a “band geek” with very little interest in sports or games. I didn’t like competition in general, and before I had my own children I was a Montessori teacher who didn’t believe in tests or grades. (Note: I still don’t like to compete, and I’m a Montessori educator/writer who still doesn’t believe in tests or grades.)
So, how did sports become such an important part of our lives, and what did I learn from our experiences?
My Experience Raising Athletes
You’ll find more about my family’s story in my About Page. The significant part of our story is that it was child-led. My kids chose their sport and indicated how serious they wanted to be in it. Christina actually lived in England for almost 5 years from ages 16-20 where she represented Great Britain in ice dance. Both my kids retired from skating early – Will at 21 and Christina at 20 – because they were in team sports where their partner retired. They decided to retire when their skating partner retired. They could have looked for new partners but chose not to.
Even though Christina competed at the Olympic level, citizenship issues prevented her from having the chance to compete at the Olympics. Competing at Worlds had always been one of Christina’s main goals, so she was happy to achieve a high-level goal even though she didn’t compete at the Olympics. Both my kids gained a lot from their experiences and went on to other successful careers at the right time for them.
What I’ve noticed is that the qualities that made Will and Christina successful athletes have made them successful in life in general. Sports enhanced and reinforced positive character traits such as self-motivation and self-confidence.
My kids both used that same self-motivation to get straight A’s in throughout their bachelor’s degrees. They’ve both used their training to teach good foundational skills to their skating students and help them learn to be good competitors. They’ve also used the same focus and self-confidence to be successful in their businesses, whether they were skating coaches (both), running a DJ business (Will), or working as a Pilates instructor, Zumba instructor, and personal trainer (Christina). Christina has even started to compete in golf, where she can directly apply many of the same principles. She used them when she and her husband played (and won) their first couples golf tournament.
I don’t think my kids’ experience is unique. I’ve noticed that the winners of competitions like Dancing with the Stars are often athletes, even though the athlete’s sport may not have anything to do with dance. You’ll notice that the stock photo I chose for the top of this post just says “winner.” It really isn’t the color of the medal (or a medal at all) that’s most important. If your child develops positive character traits from sports, he or she will be a winner in life.
Some of My Posts about What was Most Important in My Kids’ Competitive Careers
You’ll also find tips in posts from both my kids linked to in this post by Christina at Christina Chitwood Performance: Top Tips for Skating Competitions.
Tips from Team Mom Videos: Raising an Olympian
I enjoyed the Team Mom Videos: Raising an Olympian from Yahoo Shine. Many of the parents talk about the direction and focus coming from the child. And I think it really has to.
In the video about gymnast Jordyn Wieber, I found it interesting that Jordyn’s mother talked about Jordyn’s interest and focus at a young age. I saw many of the same traits in Christina. When we planned to move to Colorado after she just turned six, we were asked to wait until after her first dance recital because all the other girls followed Christina. And it was obvious that she focused in a different way from the other girls in her class.
So, much of your role as a parent is actually following Montessori principles. You need to observe your child’s needs and interests and do whatever you can to let your child follow his or her dream, whatever it is.
It starts here:
And to keep the right perspective, I think both parents and athletes need to keep this in mind throughout any athletic career (as well as any life career):
Enjoy the journey!
Background Photo at the top of the post by Les Cunliffe.