One of the themes of the London 2012 Games was ‘inspire a generation’. In my case it certainly worked. Seeing the Olympic slalom competition first hand was a real buzz and for the first time my girls are asking ‘when can we go kayaking again?’ I’m really pleased about this, because for the last 6 years or so I’ve been encouraging them to go paddling and they’ve dabbled a bit, but it never really caught their imagination. But there seems to be some genuine enthusiasm now, so we’ll do some canoe polo over the winter to get them rolling properly, back it up with basic slalom skills and then aim to start spending plenty of time on the Lee Valley legacy course (grade 2) in the spring. This should avoid too many unpleasant cold weather experiences and give them a good base to build on in whatever direction takes their fancy.
I’ve always been wary of pushing them too hard, having seen too many examples over the years of kids who have ended up living out their parent’s unfulfilled aspirations – usually with disastrous consequences. I remember one lad who literally ‘burned out’ at the age of about 12 after a couple of years hard slalom training being ‘coached’ by his demanding father. But at the same time it seems to me that it helps to encourage and set some goals. So I’ve been reflecting a bit on how to be a good ‘paddling parent’. There are some good examples around (Tim, Garry, Peter – you know who you are!)
Thinking of what I’ve seen parents do over the years to successfully introduce their children to paddling, I’m struck by a couple of things:
- They made it fun.
- They encouraged their kids to make friends and enjoy the social side of the sport (see point 1).
- They were encouraging and supportive regardless of competitive results.
- They made sure their kids learned how to paddle safely and make good decisions on the river.
When you look at it like this, it all seems pretty obvious. But having now been a Dad for nearly 19 years, I’ve learned that good parenting isn’t always easy or obvious.
So I’d be really interested to hear of your experiences – as a paddling parent or as a paddler who has a paddling parent. What are the things that make a positive difference? What are the things to avoid? Comment here or at https://www.facebook.com/DiaryOfAMiddleAgedKayaker