My last post about paddling parents provoked a great response.  In particular from Tim Ward, who emailed me about his experience as the parent of a competitive paddler – Alan Ward, who was junior World Champion in freestyle.  I thought it was worth putting Tim’s note up here because it contains some real nuggets based on his experience.

Tim writes:

Parenting athletes! What a tricky job…. Our GB Team manager reckons that the parents need more managing than the athletes and I have to agree. I remember on one trip when Alan had become a senior he and his 2 friends said they had been told off by everyone’s parents apart from their own.

We have always tried to take a pretty chilled approach with the aim of being there to help when needed rather than jumping in at every opportunity. We felt that our job was to ensure he could manage on his own. Mind you there were a few nervous moments once we could leave him to prepare when he didn’t turn up at the comp site quite as early as we expected! Having said that even now he is independent he still likes us to be there if we can. My parents never supported me at kayaking events so I’m very conscious of that. Our previous Team Coach (when Al was a junior) told me that we were model parents which was praise indeed. Perhaps we did a reasonable job.

My advice to new Team parents goes along these lines:

  • Don’t interfere with the coaches, bring problems to the Team Managers, take a back seat at Team events unless you have been given a job by the Coach
  • Be there to be in charge of your junior off the water but be discreet about it
  • Be aware that some paddlers hate their parents watching so accept that and watch from a hiding place if you must.
  • If your athlete likes you to be there (and most do) make sure they know where you will be. They may not make eye contact but they will see you.
  • Keep smiling, even when the run doesn’t go to plan. the last thing they need is a glum face watching
  • There is a very fine line between encouragement and trying to achieve through your child. Take great care not to cross it.
  • Remember that when they are being really shitty at an event it’s probably a lot to do with event nerves
  • When we go to an international remember who we are there for. Don’t jump in a boat and get on the feature to have a go unless there are no competitors there.
  • Remember that we all have poor performance days. It will happen and you may have given up your holiday and a lot of cash to be there. Take it on the chin and be positive. There will be a next time and remember we do this for fun. If they stop enjoying it they stop performing.
  • Dianne has taught me to save the admonishment for really important things. So many things they do that irritate us are not really that important!

I did once tell Alan that he was a waste of space after a poor performance. He didn’t need telling, he knew and was pretty pissed off with me. I realised I’d overstepped the mark by reacting in the heat of the moment and apologised. I haven’t done it again! I’ve for a long time considered Al as my best boating buddy and judging by the way he reacted after I got out of a potentially life threatening pin on the Gyr I think he values me too.

I’m sure this isn’t exhaustive but all I can think of just now. Hope it helps