Sixty Something: Our children in sport

Last night I sat and watched the young swimmers of Australia competing for a spot in the 2016 Olympics. I

Last night I sat and watched the young swimmers of Australia competing for a spot in the 2016 Olympics. I love the Olympics and sit in my lounge room cheering and taking every step or stroke with our athletes. Last night reminded me of the pressure put on our young people and how hard they train and how much they want to represent our country. It also reminded me of the feelings of heartbreak and disappointment, bordering on devastation that some of them experience.

Most of us who have children who love sport of one kind or another know that look our kids get when they miss out on a place on the team or don’t make it to a final. It doesn’t need to be Olympics. It doesn’t need to be a big sporting event, football or tennis or cricket. It just needs to be something they have trained for, have wanted badly and have missed out on.

Both my sons were good at sport. From an early age they participated in local football, cricket and tennis and loved Little Athletics. My eldest son was an outstanding athlete with many medals and awards to his name for all athletics and football. He played state junior teams for football and won championships for running, discus and the like. He was school champ every year in high school but he struggled. He is partially deaf and found it difficult to hear a gun go off or an opponent chasing him. He didn’t give up though for many years. He couldn’t and still can’t swim very well though, due to his equilibrium when his head is under water.

My youngest was a very good footballer and athlete, excelling in long distance running. He too won many awards and medals but was not as dedicated as his brother. Over the years though, I watched them give it everything to do their best in all they competed in. I watched their friends and their adversaries do the same. I listened to them being told that it’s all in the competing. I know they say this and to an extent it’s true, but I have never met a child or young adult who didn’t want to win.

We lived in the country so sport in one form or another was a very large part of our lives. We travelled huge distances every weekend. I felt sorry for the family with both genders as they usually had to spread themselves thin to manage keeping all children happy and playing their chosen sport. Every week we watched as these kids played their hearts out. It was not just about their playing the sport either. It was about the parents who got them to training and to the venues, who gave up so much to see their children week in and week out play their sport and form lasting friendships.

It was also about the sheer happiness shown on a face if a child won a race or a footy team or netball team won a match. It was also about the frustration when nothing seemed to go right on the day, no matter how hard they tried. It was about the parent who couldn’t encourage but only scold, about the tears and the heartache at losing or not making the cut. I know I was awake many nights with an image of my child’s face when he didn’t make the side or win the race. My heart broke for them too. I secretly wished at times that they hated sport, just so they didn’t want to compete and I didn’t see that look.

Losing in sport builds character, they say. It probably does and I know that when my sons look back at their sporting days, they sometimes laugh at the tears and the disappointment they felt back then. They know now that it’s all part of the growing process. They are proud of what they did back then and I am lucky that they always did their best and knew that every one of their team mates or fellow competitors did too. I think they feel sorry for me sometimes, realising that I felt every bumpy ride with them.

The Olympic Games is a wonderful sporting event in our history. I will be cheering them on and feeling their pain when things don’t go as planned. I will know that no matter what, everyone wants to win, but how they handle the disappointment of losing is something that makes them all winners. I will never forget the faces of my children or of their mates. I will always remember that winning isn’t everything but when you are competing it helps to have a win more than it helps to hear an adult say “it’s all in the competing”. I will look upon our sportsmen and women of these Olympics and feel for them and their families and most of all I will be proud of them and will see the faces of our children in the face of every athlete.

Will you be watching the Olympics? Were your kids good a sport?

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