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Family Support And Being A ‘Good’ Sports Parent To Kids With Sporting Talent

sports parent in hong kong
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Think your child has what it takes to compete and succeed at the highest level of sport? You’re in for an exciting but painstaking ride. We examine what it takes to be a sports parent in Hong Kong.

Parents who are tennis fans and hope to have Grand Slam champions in their family someday will remember Jannik Sinner‘s words on winning his first Grand Slam. “I wish everyone could have my parents… They never put pressure on me and I wish this freedom is possible for as many young kids as possible.” It was a lovely acknowledgement of the role a parent can play in the development of prodigious sporting talent. At the same time, it can be a warning for parents who’ve earned the proverbial “bad sports parent” rep by fighting with coaches, accusing selectors of bias and pushing their kids to the point of breakdown.

It’s not easy to be a sports parent – you must encourage, but not overwhelm your children; you must prepare them (and yourself) for success, but be able to accept failure; you must teach self-reliance and determination, but guide them towards the right support team… the list is endless. We’ve spoken to sports parents in Hong Kong, along with supporting players in a child’s sports journey, to guide you in your journey as a sports parent.

Read More: Hong Kong At The Paris Olympics 2024 – What To Expect This Year

Identifying sports talent as a sport parent in hk

Identifying Your Child’s Sporting Talent

Usually, sporting talent is in the genes. Chances are that either parent has played a sport with some level of seriousness or is an avid fan and talks about or watches sports often. In a previous post for Sassy Mama, child psychologist, Anuprita Kalgutkar, explains the signs to spotting sporting talent early.

“If you love and live tennis and follow all Grand Slam matches on TV, your little one will instinctively know how to mimic a sliced backhand and a precise serve. Also, look out for your child’s physical readiness and at what age this develops.”

Linda, mother of professional Hong Kong China Women’s Rugby player, Natasha Olson-Thorne agrees. Though she didn’t realise her daughter’s talent, she knew she had advanced physical development when she walked as early as 8.5 months. What followed was excelling at a variety of sports in school before settling on a preferred one. Linda reiterates that parents should allow their children to participate in a range of sports – specialising too early can lead to stress injuries and burnout.

Read More: How To Identify Your Child’s Talent And Hone It

The Unique Challenges Of Being A Sports Parent

Being a parent is challenging enough, but being a sports parent requires a whole new level of dedication, hard work and sacrifice. Once you have identified your child’s sporting talent and if they are showing consistent interest and commitment, it’s best to prepare yourself for the journey ahead. If it’s a new sport or one that you’re unfamiliar with, you will need to read up about the sport. Talk to other sports parents, if possible. They will help you with understanding the basics of the game, equipment and training needed, team selection processes, important tournaments at different stages, coaching options and more.

Playing any sport requires talent, but assuming that your child has that, you will still need to back it wholeheartedly with physical, emotional, financial and logistical support. Let’s look at the physical aspect first.

getting physically ready for sports at the highest level

Getting Physically Ready For Sports At The Highest Level

Needless to say, sports requires a lot of physical effort. Sports players requires fitness training and specific sports coaching, along with a carefully monitored diet and nutritional needs. What’s your role as a sports parent? The first would be get your child the right sports training.

Hetal Trivedi, whose 19-year-old son, Ahan, is part of the Hong Kong China Men’s Cricket team, says,

“As Indians, we love cricket and it’s a great team sport. With limited competition in Hong Kong, cricket offers a great opportunity for talented players, but be warned that there is a  dearth of cricket professionals here. We had to rely on information from friends and the internet, as well as private coaching to get Ahan the training he needed. We also made regular trips to India for expert coaching and tournament experience.”

It all paid off as at the age of 17, Ahan got his first men’s call-up for the Asia Cup Qualifiers and subsequent Asia Cup.

sports parent payoff

When it comes to finding a support team of physiotherapists, fitness trainers, sports nutritionists and more, Hong Kong scores highly as a city. Jack Capon, who is a physiotherapist with Joint Dynamics, says he personally has worked with the Hong Kong China Men’s National XV Rugby team, while other staff have experience with running, ultra marathons, Premier league football, national rugby teams, Olympic-level winter sports and national swimming programmes. And this is just one of the many sports clinics in Hong Kong, so for budding athletes there certainly is help that really is only a phone call away. He adds,

“For sure, certain sports will have more developed pathways in Hong Kong to help talented younger athletes. I have personal experience going through the pathway from youth to senior teams with HKC Rugby and I know they have a system in place to support junior athletes. The Hong Kong Sports Institute is also a valuable resource for sports included in the Olympics & Asian Games.”

Read More: Kids’ Sports Classes In Hong Kong – Badminton, Rugby, Tennis & More

sports parent emotional support

Being A Sports Parent: Providing Emotional Support In A Child’s Sports Journey

This is often the hardest part of being a sports parent because emotions naturally run high when it comes to any sort of competition. A parent who has had unfulfilled sports ambitions may be guilty of thrusting his or her own dreams on a child. Similarly, any negative association or trauma with a sport can be passed on to a child subconsciously. Linda Olson says she needed to make mental and emotional adjustments when Natasha wanted to play rugby and she didn’t want her to.

“I had gone to school in Kenya in the late 70s/early 80s and had seen rugby injuries. To begin with, I told her that I would only pay for her mouth guard, she would have to pay for everything else, like club fees! When I finally went to watch her play, I knew this was her game. She was like poetry in motion, this lion-loping-pouncing person on the pitch, and it was an amazing thing to see.”

From then on, Linda has tried to do as much as she can to support Natasha and girls and women’s rugby in Hong Kong and internationally. But she admits that she has had to learn to live with some anxiety. In fact, her heart beats so fast when Natasha plays that her Fitbit thinks she’s exercising! But she admits it’s been worth it!

Some sports parents have been accused of being too pushy when it comes to their children’s sport careers. Former tennis greats like Andre Agassi and Mary Pierce have spoken openly about this, while other champions have suffered breakdowns right during what should have been the peak of their careers. Mental health practitioner, Sonia Samtani, who has worked extensively with professional race car drivers, including Dan Wells, has a word of advice for sports parents,

“Sports is a journey. It will take some wins and losses. Parents and children have to be emotionally ready for that journey. A lot of athletes go through trauma because they relate their self-esteem and self-worth to winning, and the result defines them. That is the nature of sports because a few seconds can make you a winner or loser. Sports champions need to learn to separate themselves and their value from sporting results.”

Read More: Alternative Therapy In Hong Kong – Acupuncture, Reiki And More

How To Provide Financial Support As A Sports Parent

This is a tough one! Hong Kong is an expensive city and your child pursuing a career in sports can be taxing on your wallet. Let this be part of your research and understand what the spends are likely to add up to in your child’s chosen sport.

While your child’s talent in sports may or may not bring them Olympic glory (or the equivalent highest honour), if managed judiciously, it should be enough to ensure that they have a career in sport. It should also be enough to get them sports scholarships to leading universities, both in Hong Kong and overseas.

As mentioned earlier, the Hong Kong Sports Institute offers several grants and schemes that are designed to support a potential sports champion reach the highest possible international success.

Read More: 5 Ways To Financially Prepare To Be A Parent In Hong Kong

providing logistical support as a sports parent in hong kong

Logistical Support When You’re a Sports Parent

They say there’s no gain without pain and it’s especially true when it comes to sports. As a sport parent, you might be expected to do a whole lot of juggling, planning and inevitably, sacrificing something to allow your child to pursue and excel at sport. This can be a very heavy burden on a family, especially if there is more than one child, and the other child does not play the same sport.

One way to go about this is to get the whole family to follow best practices, that apply not only to sports but to life in general. Be a role model to your child and develop healthy eating and fitness habits, be disciplined in your own time management, learn to respect rules and the coaches’ decisions, be a team player and don’t shirk work or slack off from your responsibilities. At the same time, not everything can be a family affair so teach your child to be independent as early on as possible.

My son’s tennis coach recently told me that he once thought that three things played an equally important role in a child’s success in the sport – the child, the coach and the parents. But over the years, he has refined his belief.

“The child, the coach, the parents and the driver!”

It was a joke, of course, but it reiterated the role logistics plays in sports success. The stereotypical soccer mom is at every game, attends every practice session and cheers louder than anyone else! Not everyone can be like her. Be realistic about your limitations as a sports parent, work out an arrangement with aunties, drivers and fellow parents. They say it takes a village to raise a child. When it comes to a child with sports talent, maybe it takes an Olympic-sized sports village!

Read More: Raising Resilient Hong Kong Kids By Teaching Them Happiness

Main image courtesy of Mikhail Nilov via Pexels, images 1, 4 and 5 courtesy of  Linda Olson and Hong Kong China Rugby, images 2 and 3 courtesy of Hetal Trivedi, image 6 courtesy of Karolina Kaboompics via Pexels, image 7 courtesy of Alliance Football Club via Unsplash.

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