Watching from the sideline is sometimes said to be more nerve-wracking than competing on any stage. So spare a thought for the parents of the world’s top athletes.
While the focus is on the competitors in their quest for glory, it’s worth remembering that no one gets there on their own. So what advice do parents of some of Team Speedo’s swimmers have for the mums and dads out there, hoping to inspire and support their own top athletes?
DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: The best tips and advice
For parents, encouraging sporting success in children is a mixture of supporting them in their choices and promoting a positive mental attitude but equally, parents need to be sure to manage their own expectations.
For John Cochrane, dad to 1,500m and 400m swimmer Ryan, it’s about giving budding athletes the freedom to chase their own successes: ‘Let them try numerous sports and allow them to pursue their dreams, not those of the parent. Remember, a superstar at eight years old doesn’t mean a superstar at 18 – let them progress at their own rate.’
It’s important to be positive when they fail
Jeanne Dwyer, mum to Team USA’s freestyle and medley swimmer, Conor says: ‘It’s important to be positive when they fail, let them know that anything is possible with hard work and show them to always have good sportsmanship by displaying it yourself. And don’t forget – you should always love them unconditionally.’
TEARS IN THE EYE: Bursting with pride
There’s no better feeling than celebrating victory and the lucky few who reach the top step of the podium always share the moment with their family – providing memories to cherish forever.
Cecilia Adrian should know. After seeing son, Nathan, win a medal for the USA, it was the vision of him standing next to the famous stars and stripes that struck a chord with her. She said: ‘There were so many moments I was proud of Nathan. I could never forget the moment I saw him on the podium with the USA flag rising and our anthem playing at the medal ceremony for the 100m freestyle.’
Hrafnhildur was humble, positive, happy and grateful
It was Icelandic breaststroker Hrafnhildur Lúthersdóttir’s reaction to winning that stayed with her mum, Ingar Ragnars, though. She recalled: ‘My proudest moment was seeing Hrafnhildur in interviews after she won medals at the European Championships. She was humble, positive, happy and grateful.’
WHATEVER, WHENEVER: Being supportive and making those essential sacrifices
It might feel like a sacrifice for some, but Sharon Atkinson, mum to Jamaican breaststroker Alia, wouldn’t call it that. She said: ‘I wouldn’t call anything a sacrifice. I’m a firm believer in supporting Alia in all her endeavours as she remains gung-ho towards her goals and dreams.’
It’s not just time that needs to be given though. Sometimes parents have to offer financial support to keep their kids' ambitions afloat. ‘We’ve been part of Jazz’s career from day one,’ says Mary Carlin, British 400m swimmer Jazmin’s mum. ‘On top of normal parent duties, this included providing transport to training and competitions, giving moral support at events and funding any expenses incurred until she received UK Sport Lottery funding.’
An athlete’s support network can have as much bearing on their performance as their mental strength and work ethic. In fact, a parent’s help will play a part in forming that. So next time you see a parent cheering on their child from the edge of the pool, don’t just see them as a passionate supporter, but a key part of the swimmer’s team.
Please consult your GP or doctor before starting any new training regime