Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Parents - Please!

For today here’s a great post from Nigel Melville, ex-England Captain and British Lion, current CEO of USA Rugby. Nigel’s points are spot-on, and echo my thoughts on Growing Up. Enjoy. -KR

A few weekend’s ago, I had the pleasure of watching the potential High School All-Americans and the USA U20s, I spent time with the scrum halves, talked with the coaches and was pretty impressed with the environment that had been created at Glendale for these high performance players. These were excellent young athletes, keen to learn, working hard and obviously have a passion for rugby.

Just minutes after visiting the age grade camp, I called in at the Denver Tennis Club to watch my 9-year-old son Tom play his first round match in the Denver Open Under 10’s competition – what a contrast!

Tennis is the ‘other’ sport in our household, my wife Sue plays and Tom is part of a high performance program in Colorado that is developing some pretty good players.

I enjoy watching the kids play, but Saturday was an exception, it reminded me of everything that is bad about kids sport – or as a friend of mine used to call them – the OAF’s, or ‘over ambitious families.’

The bigger the potential prize, the worse the parents become. In the USA its all about scholarships, god knows how much parents spend over a period of 10+ years trying to get little Jonny or Grace a sports scholarship - maybe they should just save their money and spare us all the pleasure of their company!

Tom was drawn against a kid we had never heard of from Mexico -- he was touring. Yes, touring, America with his family playing tournaments this summer. Anyway, the kid arrives with a full entourage of parents, relations and racquets. He starts pretty well, but loses the first set 6-1. He hits the ball hard, but Tom moves pretty well and gets everything back, stays patient and wins points and games.

When the kid starts to lose, the family start to coach the kid, then a ‘family member’ comes up to me and tells me that my kid’s cheating, I tell them to get a line judge and this guy arrives, watches the game and calls two balls out that the Mexican family think are in – all hell breaks loose and the kid is taken off the court by his parents….Tom, age 9, stands there not knowing what on earth is going on….

I watched another game where some guy from Texas was blaming the altitude for his kids poor serve – give me a break!

When I was a kid, my mum and dad used to come and watch me play whatever I was doing. After every game I used to ask them how I’d got on. Not once did they have an opinion on my play, which infuriated me. Instead, they just asked, ‘did you enjoy yourself?’
What that taught me was that sport wasn’t about pleasing them, it was about enjoying myself.

Now I have kids of my own, I take the wise council of my parents, I want them to play sport because they enjoy it. I want them to find their own way in life, make their own choices, because at the end of the day, if they want to be the best at anything they have to make a number of tough choices and dedicate themselves to achieving those goals.

In short, they have to love what they are doing! I have been around successful people all my life, one thing they all exhibit is a passion for what they do.

When the media write about the sacrifices people make in the search of excellence, they don’t know what they are talking about. These are not sacrifices, these are choices that are made to achieve the individuals goals.

At the end of the day, excellence is driven by the individuals passion for what they are doing – not their parents. Parents should be there to support the emotional rollercoaster of the sporting/life experience – not be a part of it!

Parents should encourage their kids to try a wide range of activities and support them, not just the sports that have potential pay checks!

Of course, you want them to play rugby, and they might when they’ve given it a try, but if they are playing it for you, they will give it up at their first opportunity!

They will find their way in sport and in life with your support and love, they will be successful in their own way.