Parent of a sporty kid: Sports Parents are special

By Lucile De Carbonnieres
R2P Head of Operations

I certainly don’t feel special when I am freezing on a Sunday morning watching my two boys playing Rugby in the mud and sleet, or my daughter playing Hockey on a pitch glistening with frost. However, without my husband and I, the chauffeurs, safety officers, nutritionists, counsellors, physios and generally “Experts in Everything” for the family, the children would not be able to enjoy all the sports they practice and love doing every week.

Just like actors at the Oscars’ ceremony, when athletes are being interviewed after winning a trophy or a big match or a big win, they are likely to thank their parents. For sure they thank their team of professionals, their trainer, but invariably their parents too. Lewis Hamilton celebrated with his mother Carmen when he won the Formula One World Championship in 2017 for the fourth time. Tim Henman was never shy of mentioning his mother Jane. Famously, Andy Murray forgot to hug his mum Judy when he climbed up to the player’s box to celebrate his historic win at Wimbledon in 2013! He knew, we all knew, that she was not going to be impressed by the lack of gratitude. He quickly mentioned her in his post-tournament speech.

So, what have Carmen, Jane, Judy and all the anonymous parents of sports people got in common? It takes a lot to make it to the top of the pack and become a professional athlete. It takes a lifetime of dedication, hours after hours of training and practicing your skills, which would be near impossible without a support team. In the early days, when they are mere children, let’s face it, the support team is simply Mum and Dad. Sports parents are indeed the unsung heroes of sports excellence and achievement. Without the endless taxiing, the never ending waiting on the side-line, the constant cheering and supporting, the comforting meals and hugs after a setback, the never wavering support and encouragement, athletes would not be where they are today.

Parents always wear a multitude of hats but amongst it all they play a critical role in shaping our athletes and young children involved in sport. They are pivotal in keeping their children healthy, always fighting to make sure they are treated fairly and kept safe. We all need to recognise the role parents have to play in keeping sports safer and fairer and we need to empower them to take an even more active role in grassroots sports. More often than not, the parents, and let’s not forget the grand-parents and carers, will be found cheering on the side-line, sitting in the car waiting to drive their brood home, selling cakes to raise money for their clubs, serving drinks to other parents at festivals. I think parents are a lot more critical than this and they should be empowered to play a greater role in sport. Parents are naturally the best placed to look after their children’s welfare and they should confidently step out of the shadows and affirm their roles as expert “welfare officers”! Sports will change for the better when more family members are involved and create a youth sports world which is safer, more inclusive, more caring and more welcoming of parents.