Monday, 30 July 2012

Raising Olympians?

Obsessive Olympics-watching was the order of the day in our house this weekend, from last Friday's fabulous ceremony (despite the best efforts of NBC to ruin it) to watching the first Team GB medals in the cycling road race and swimming.

The Littleboys, despite sporting American accents and knowing the pledge of allegiance to the US flag off by heart, have turned out to be staunchly pro-British.; for example, they object highly to a Citibank ad that keeps being during the coverage, with the strapline 'Go Team USA'. Meanwhile Littleboy 2 keeps earnestly asking me if "England" is the same is "Team GB", because that's who he wants to support (I'm not surprised he's confused - what does Team GB mean exactly? I mean, aren't we Great Britain and Northern Ireland?).

This is the first Olympics the boys have been old enough to really take in, and I'm loving it all the more for their enthusiasm, as well as the fact it's in London. They stayed up for a good half of the opening ceremony, loving Mr Bean in particular and the children bouncing on hospital beds. Littleboy 1 has started an Olympic log book of sports he has watched, noting down teams and scores in felt pen. When we went to the town pool on Sunday, both insisted on swimming several lengths of front crawl, and asked me to teach them how to do a somersault turn.

I think it's great that they're so inspired by the Olympics, and have been wondering how exactly I could ensure their future dazzling success as Olympic athletes. It seems to me you must have to settle on a sport pretty early on in life; Littleboy 1 is already seven, so we need to get a move on. He's fairly sporty, but I'm not sure cycling up and down the block is going to produce the next Bradley Wiggins, and although he's a good soccer player I'm realistic enough not to think he's going to be a world-class footballer. I think I need to pick something more obscure - perhaps both boys could team up and become sychronized divers? Or perhaps beach volleyball - there's a court near us, and surely that would be an advantage over most the future players of 'Team GB'?

In truth, I would love to raise an Olympian, but deep down I have a feeling that, if you weren't one already, you would turn into a kind of obsessive freak-parent whose life became dominated by your child's success or failure, training regimes and the like. Just looking at some of the wild-eyed, chuntering parents of US gymnasts in the crowd yesterday made me shudder (particularly when we heard that one of the girls was competing with a broken toe). I wonder if it's possible to raise an Olympian without going overboard - or if that's just not realistic these days?

15 comments:

Conuly said...

Well, gymnasts - especially female ones - age out of the sport really very fast. If you're raising one you really have to be obsessive because there aren't enough days in their careers to take one off.

Other sports are probably saner. Running, swimming, whatever else people do in the Olympics.

Dad etc said...

I think the commitment required of parents to raising little Olympians is colossal. It has to become your whole life.
Not only does it require parental commitment it also must disrupt family life too. The siblings of the future Olympian must have to come second surely?
Thanks for raising this interesting point.

Expat mum said...

I was very happy when both my big kids dropped swim team! Sitting sweating by a pool three times a week (with a small baby at that time too), and getting up for swim meets before the sun came up was just too much for me!
Having said that, I'm quite happy to lug amps, guitars etc around now that the Man-Child is into rock and roll!

Almost American said...

DD announced yesterday that she'd like to make it into the Olympics as a diver, maybe a synchro diver. For a moment I thought that might actually work - and I like the fact that it's something you actually have to be good at - doping isn't going to make you any better at it. Then I started thinking about all the driving to tournaments that would be involved, and the fact that she's not very gymnastically inclined or coordinated anyway and I suspect you rather have to be - and that little dream disappeared. I think I'd rather she got a PhD (takes just as much dedication) and taught at some big name university!

Metropolitan Mum said...

I think it's impossible to compete without being hardcore these days. There is so much competition from countries where personal needs just don't seem to count and children are being pushed to their limits - to stand a real chance, I assume you would have to do the same with the Littleboys.

Knackered Mother said...

A friend of mine has an 8yo boy who is already a real tennis star, but she says it completely takes over your whole family's life. On the rare occasion he comes here to play when not playing tennis, he is absolutely gorgeous but I do feel he misses out on just being, well, an 8yo boy. Still, he's my great Wimbledon hope so I'm right behind them! x

About Last Weekend said...

My kids are way too slackers in the making to be Olympians, sad to say. My friend has a child who might be a trialist and her life is completely taken over by it. Still it must be amazing to see a child of yours take something to the absolute limits (for mine: it's TV watching...)

nappy valley girl said...

Conuly - You're right about gymnastics. Mind you, swimming is a very young sport too. They all seem to be getting younger....

Dad etc - good point about siblings, they must inevitably feel sidelined when there's an athlete in the family.

Expat Mum - I've done a bit of 'piano mom' recently and haven't minded that at all. But I know some mothers around here whose lives are ruled by soccer/hockey fixtures, and this is at elementary school level. I'm not sure I could take it....

Almost American - a PhD would keep me happy too....

MetMum - yes, who can compete with China without being hardcore?

KM - I would actually love to be a tennis mom and sit up in the parents' box at Wimbledon. Mind you, my children haven't even had a tennis lesson yet, so better forget that one....

ALW - yep, if there was an event for Angry Birds, Littleboy 1 would be right up there...

AliBlahBlah said...

My husband is a tennis pro and so my 7yr old has already done a full month of tennis camp this summer. He sees a LOT of pushy parents, which is very hard when the kid in question has average talent, or even worse, less than average enthusiasm. Having said that - if your kid has both the passion and the talent from an early age, your future as a parent driving hundreds of miles each weekend for tournaments is almost already guaranteed.

Not my 7yr old by the way - she's far more like me. In fact, if there was a reading Olympics.......

Melissa said...

I've had similar thoughts while watching the games. How proud you must be to be the parent of an olympian, but what sacrifices were made by everyone to get there?

Jay said...

Raising a world class athlete would take so much commitment it scares me. The child and parent would have no other life for a long time but I guess if it's what they want I'd do it.
So hard to watch them in pain and in tears though, I'd have to toughen up!

PantsWithNames said...

No idea, but loving how much they are enjoying it. And, at least this time around we are actually getting to watch some of it, rather than having to constantly fend off requests for CBeebies

SarahMummy said...

It would be amazing to raise an Olypmpian, but a huge commitment - and you also need a kid with natural talent to start off with. Interestingly, 25% are privately educated. I'm guessing they're the rowers and equestrian - things that can be learned with commitment. No amount of training will make a kid be Usain Bolt without huge amount of natural talent. But it's great that our kids are inspired! If they want to do more sport, that's good for everyone, and someone our there will be bringing up the future Team GB.

Iota said...

Show jumping. Then they've got ages to work on it. You can be an Olympic show jumper at 54.

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Forget about raising Olympians the truly exciting thing is the possibility of a new generation of people who actually want to include some sort of movement in their daily life--even if it's hiking (or Rambling to the Brits in here!).

I really hope the Olympics inspire people in many ways, including national pride, but especially with exercise. We don't all need to aspire to be Olympians (I know you're not suggesting that) but we can all aspire to bring more fitness in our lives. The whole five a day slogan re food is great, and Jamie Oliver's influence on school dinners has been enlightening, but who's going to launch the much needed 'get of yer bum' slogan? Jess Ennis? Chris Hoy? We need this now!

I was reading your post and smiling. I think it's AWESOME that your boys are so excited by the Olympics! I really hope the UK takes advantage of this momentum.

Oh, sorry, that was a bit of a soapbox moment, wasn't it?! ;)

Great post!! Really got me thinking...