Sunday 1 November, 5.30pm until 6.30pm, Café
Children can benefit from the support of their parents when taking part in sport, just as in their school work or music lessons, but when does loving encouragement spill over into ‘pushy parents’ applying unfair pressure to succeed? Should children from a very young age be pushed to focus on being the swiftest, highest or strongest, or should children’s sport put healthy fun before competitive excellence? Even a success story like diver Tom Daley, who represented Britain at the Olympics last year at the age of 14, has been subject to intense pressure, and bullying about his fame, so is it worth it? Some schools have gone so far as to abandon competitive sports altogether, even scrapping sports days. Meanwhile, the government-backed Child Protection in Sport website warns parents of sporty kids that their approval is important to their children’s self-esteem and so, ‘You should not make negative, personalised comments or punish them in any way’. But is it the place of strangers to lecture parents on how to encourage their own kids? Is there a danger of demonising the kind of impassioned support and feedback that might spur children on to succeed at the sports they enjoy so much?
Commentators often argue it is selfish of parents to put children through hours of training to fulfil their ambition for their child to be a professional tennis player or an Olympic competitor, but top athletes generally think their achievements outweigh the loss of a ‘normal’ childhood. Few children can hope to reach the pinnacle of their sport, but isn’t a competitive spirit essential even to enjoying amateur sport? Is parental encouragement an essential antidote to the unambitious, ‘all must have prizes’ tenor of our times or do pushy parents take the joy out of sport for young people, turning it into a chore rather than a pleasure?
freelance journalist, mainly for The Times, Independent and Evening Standard
|Dr Katherine Rake|
CEO, Family and Parenting Institute
co-founder, IoI Parents Forum
director, Brighton Salon; tennis coach; author How to teach Young Children Tennis and In Defence of Competitive Sport.
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
Thousands of people have turned out in Plymouth to welcome home diver Tom Daley after he won a gold medal at the World Diving Championships in RomeBBC News, 31 July 2009
If you used to think John McEnroe’s on-court tantrums were the pits, just wait until you meet today's tennis brats.Nicola Pearson, The Times, 22 June 2009
Whilst many specialist sports schools, and independent schools provide excellent facilities and regular competitive sport, there are many others in which competition has been largely extinguishedGeoff Kidder, Culture Wars, 19 August 2008
Antonia Leslie wonders whether, under certain circumstances, Pushy Parent Syndrome can be considered a good thingAntonia Leslie, Irish Independent, 29 June 2008
A father admits to forcing his son into games for which he was unsuited. He has reformed, but is it too late to prevent any damage to his son?James Sutherland, The Times, 12 May 2008
A Manifesto for the reintroduction of competition in schools by a tennis coachDan Travis, Manifesto Club