Practical Tips for Parents - Beginner Athlete
The athlete competes at a regional level. They are at the beginning of their career.
Interaction with the athlete
It is not easy to be a good parent and it is even harder to become a good athlete’s parent. The support and interest of parents is crucial to the athlete as they continue their participation in high-level sport.
- 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 their important activities, set goals in these areas and manage time appropriately to meet these goals.
- 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”.
- Concentrate principally on performance whatever the conditions may be, helping the athlete to focus on trying to do their best, instead of focusing only on the final result.
- Ensure the athlete respects the principles of good sportsmanship, behaviour and ethics. They should stay grounded, and parents should avoid expressions such as: “the referee was terrible”.
- Help the athlete to set priorities and manage their time. You should avoid deciding on their behalf. The athlete should learn about taking decisions and responsibility.
- Realise that athletes usually need space and time when they lose. Asking questions just after the game could make them irritable.
- Divide private life and sporting life, keeping a defeat in perspective by emphasising that your degree of love and affection will not change.
- 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.
- Early in their career, you will be the main one responsible for creating the whole team around the athlete.
- Generally pay attention to the way your child is eating. Use the expertise of a nutrition specialist to get information.
- Develop a solid career plan with realistic expenses. It would be wise to seek the assistance of a professional if you are not an expert in this area.
- 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.
School and Education
Study shows that athletes with an integrated approach of combining sport and education, life skills and employment opportunities are more likely to achieve their sporting goals. In this sense the support of parents is essential to the athlete as they continue their participation in high-level sport and school.
- Arrange meetings with the school and teachers to explain the situation of your child.
- Talk with the athlete about school education and not only about sport.
- Give preference to sports-friendly schools and institutions.
- 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.
- At school as well as in sport, the best results are achieved when one sets clear and realistic goals. However, don’t prevent your child from having dreams.
Interaction with the Coach
The role of the coach is central to an athlete’s career and has a great influence on their results. Coaching means being a teacher, facilitator, innovator, leader and protector of the athlete, all at the same time.
Studies and experience have demonstrated that the quality of a relationship between a coach and an athlete has a fundamental influence on an athlete's satisfaction, motivation and results. Therefore it is essential that, as parents, you do what you can to build up and preserve a strong and constructive relationship with your child’s coach.
- If not imposed by the club or the federation, the first and possibly the most important step is choosing a suitable coach.
- As parents, you must acknowledge that a coach's expertise and knowledge make them an authority figure within the sport and that they must be treated as such.
- Open, honest and cooperative communication is essential from the start of any relationship.
- Let coaches decide on choices regarding training and competition.
- Ensure that the coach is keeping the right perspective by being positive.
- 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
Because there are so many agents on the market today, it is not difficult to find one. What can be more difficult is finding one who is competent and trustworthy. There is no specific training needed to become an agent, and only in very few sports, and in even fewer countries, is there any kind of licensing or regulatory system in place.
- Contact potential sponsors. Try to find sponsors that suit the athlete’s sport and personality.
- 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.
- If you decide to let the agent handle almost 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.
- Monitoring will ensure that everything is running smoothly. Ensure that the athlete fulfils their contractual obligations.