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We all want the absolute best for our children. From the moment they’re born we
want them to be at the head of the class, win 10 gold medals and be as happy and
successful as they possibly can.
“What is the best way to raise my child to be a Gold Medalist? “ is a question that I
get asked just about every day. The very direct answer is: You don’t raise children
to be gold medalists, you raise them to be happy and healthy. If you raise your child
specifically to be a gold medal athlete or to win the Super Bowl, chances are their
childhood won’t be very much fun.
As a child, I was exposed to a large number of activities, some I liked and- well –
some I didn’t. Once I started swimming, I knew it was for me. Swimming came
naturally, and once I was in my early teens I made the conscious decision to get
serious with the sport. You see, in that sense, swimming kind of chose me. My
mother didn’t force me to swim endless laps in the kiddie pool or make me to go to
swim camp when I was 5. What I’m trying to say is that if you want your child to be
as happy and successful as they can be, you should expose them to a number of
activities, encourage them, and make certain they are HEALTHY and HAPPY.
Once this happens, their strengths will show themselves.
Here are a few pointers that I picked up as both a successful athlete and as a mom:
EXPOSE CHILDREN TO A NUMBER OF ACTIVITIES: Go ahead, sign your child
up for soccer, swimming, lacrosse, chess club; you name it. Exercise is great for
children, and the more activities they participate in make them more likely to find
something they’re good at. Very often, your child will figure out their strengths by
themselves… I sure did!
PLAY TO THEIR STRENGTHS: Once your child has found something that they’re
good at, encourage them! Children’s feelings are so sensitive that they’re likely to
get down on themselves very easily. I remember wanting to hang up my swim cap
for good after losing some close swim races. My mother, Barbara Hopewell, picked
me back up and I came out on top!
DON’T PUSH TOO HARD: There’s a fine line between positive, constructive
encouragement and flat out pushing your children to the point where sports become
a chore. I see this all the time with young ones at the pool. There’s definitely a
time to become super-serious with athletic training, and before the age of 10 is just
simply not that time.
HEALTH COMES FIRST: Health is the absolute number one concern when it comes
to our young athletes. Make certain that they get a good, balanced diet. Make sure
that they’re hydrated. Make sure they stretch. Athletic activity will go a long way
to keep their physical fitness up, but don’t overdo it. Also remember: it’s allergy
season! If your kids have allergies, keep their allergy medicine around to relieve
the effects of seasonal allergies and Hay Fever. Nobody likes playing sports with a
runny nose and itchy eyes!
When you get down to brass tacks, all happy and healthy children are our
champions. If you’re child exhibits superior ability in any one particular sport or
activity, then is the time to get serious. For now, however: have FUN, be SAFE, and
Have a great summer!