Practical Tips for Parents – Intermediate Athlete
The athlete competes at national level. They reach high junior ranking and achieve their first pro experience.
(Please note that some tips are the same as in the “beginner section” as they are also relevant.)
Interaction with the athlete
- Focus on and dedication to sport can often be detrimental to other aspects of the athlete’s life. In order to help their child be the best athlete possible, parents should try to promote a balanced life. Try to choose other important activities, set goals in these areas and manage time appropriately to meet these goals.
- Be aware that competitive sport is complex, especially if the athlete has not participated at elite level before.
- Show positive interest by occasionally attending training sessions and competitions. Be careful not to become over-involved in the athlete’s sport and/or use expressions such as: “we are playing today”.
- Ensure the athlete respects the principles of good sportsmanship, behaviour and ethics. They should stay grounded, and you should avoid expressions such as: “the referee was terrible”.
- Realise that athletes usually need space and time when they lose. Asking questions just after the game could make them irritable.
- Understand the risks and look for the signs of tension in the athlete. The athlete’s happiness and well-being are the most important things. Ignoring the athlete when difficulties arise could have detrimental consequences.
- Be supportive, emotionally and otherwise (socially and logistically), reinforcing that you are happy to sustain the athlete’s involvement and evolution in sport.
- Reward the athlete for who they are as a human being and as part of the family, and not just as a sportsperson. Don’t forget any other children in the family.
- Support the perspective that sport is just a game, highlighting its values as a preparation for life. The career of an elite athlete is short and you should encourage the idea of a career plan.
- In order to help the athlete attain their goals, you must help them to set priorities. You will have to help in choosing competitions and/or extracurricular activities wisely. It will be difficult but necessary for the athlete to achieve their ultimate priority.
- Generally pay attention to the way your child is eating. Use the expertise of a nutrition specialist to get information.
- No matter what stage the athlete is at, you should always try to manage them so that they live within their means and follow a monthly budget.
- Be open and communicate in a transparent way about all costs and the way you finance all logistical aspects.
School and education
- Talk with the athlete about school education and not only about sport.
- Give preference to sports-friendly schools and institutions.
- For the athlete, the best way to build experience and education while competing is to volunteer their time. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities for an athlete - be it in the administration of their sport, in their local club, in a school, or at any events in which they are not competing. Encourage the athlete to fit such activities into their training schedule, as this will allow them to build work experience and learn new skills
- Help them to find scholarships. A lot of opportunities and work-experience positions are unclaimed because no-one knows about them. Contact their Federation or National Olympic Committee to see if there are any scholarship programmes.
- Speak to other athletes’ parents to see how they have managed to find time for distance-learning education courses or short-term training courses for their child.
- Speak to your child’s sponsors and agent - maybe they have opportunities for training courses in which they would be happy for them to be involved.
Interaction with the Coach
- As parents, you must acknowledge that a coach's expertise and knowledge makes them an authority figure within the sport and that they must be treated as such.
- Establish a clear and respectful line of communication with the coach.
- Organise regular meetings with the coach and the athlete in order to agree upon school timetables or schedules for training.
- In case of problems with the coach, do not hesitate to contact the federation to act as a mediator.
Interactions with other populations of the athlete’s entourage
- Contact potential sponsors. Try to find sponsors that suit the athlete’s sport and personality.
- Take your time, together with your child, to choose an agent. It is a key decision that will affect the athlete’s career. Make sure you find out important information, such as whether or not he or she is well respected in the world of sport. Ask for recommendations from people around you.
- Make sure the agent understands the athlete’s sport. Part of his/her job is to create time and security to allow the athlete to concentrate fully on maximising their sporting performances.
- Give the agent a clear understanding of what the goals and objectives of the collaboration are with respect to your child’s sports career and what they plan to do after their retirement from sport. Make sure the agent shares your vision of a long-term career plan.
- Make sure the agent will have no conflict of interests in taking decisions. Is he/she totally independent from clubs or other associations, for instance?
- If there is a system of regulation or licensing, make sure the agent is a licensed agent. The National and International Federations will be able to give you information.
- Stipulate a written contract with the agent. And, if nothing else, make sure the contract clearly states: the duration; how the agent will get paid, how much, and by whom; what the agent is expected to do; and how the contract may be terminated.
- Never allow your child to sign a contract you do not understand – ask for the advice of an independent lawyer.
- Consider what role you want the agent to take. In addition to bringing in revenue, agents often handle media relations for the athlete. In some large sports agencies, agents deal with all aspects of an athlete’s finances, from investments to filing taxes.
- If you decide to let the agent handle everything, make it clear from the start that you would like an independent auditor to inspect any financial accounts.
- As athletes’ parents, you should always be ready to speak to the media before, during or after a competition.
- If you need advice on what you could be saying or to get context on current issues, the various governing bodies of your sport can also help. Contact your National Olympic Committee and it will tell you what its position (or the International Olympic Committee’s position) is on certain issues. With this information, you can then develop your own clear stance on the subject.
- If the media ask a question which you do not know the answer to, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know. It is better to stick to what you know and are prepared to talk about.
- The best way to learn is to watch other people when they are approached by the media. Watch other athletes’ parents – how do they react to the media? Who is well prepared and who is not? Try to see who you can learn from.
- You may ask the National or International Federation, National Olympic Committee, or sponsors of your child about opportunities for media training.
- The most important thing to remember when trying to approach a new sponsor is that sporting performance is not enough to make the deal. Personality matters just as much. So be friendly and be a strong partner.
- To find sponsors, you can use business directories, and contacts from both inside and outside the sport. Think about any products the athlete enjoys using and which could potentially be endorsed, such as travel agents, banks, grocery stores, toothpaste, etc. If you decide to contract an agent, he/she will usually undertake the task of finding sponsors.