For parents, maybe child-rearing should be an Olympian sport

Commentary by Tracy Doren

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Watching the Olympics is always entertaining, even if I’m not a big fan of whichever event presents itself on any given evening. I always find myself getting caught up in the action.

Having raised an aspiring Olympic swimmer almost 20 years ago, I can’t help but think about the parents in the stands. Watching the years of dedication, hard work, sacrifices—not to mention money—it all comes down to a few minutes to finish in the top 3.

Let’s face it: At the Olympics, no one ever remembers the fourth finisher.

My mind has a habit of wandering, so here go my thoughts: From Olympic parents to everyday- sport parents, having had four kids, all with varying degrees of commitment to their favorite sport, I have not only been that mom but have gotten to observe many others as well.

I can’t say that I know any parents who have (so far, anyway) sent their child on to a career in professional athletics.

But I do know the trajectory of fame and fortune can sometimes have a quick and sharp decline. I speak
of my own experience from when my superstar 6-year old won the state championship in butterfly.

All of her relatives (not to mention me) were pretty convinced that we were witnessing a miracle in water.

Scholarships were sure to be flowing in, with inquiries from top coaches in the country keeping us busy for months. But then she turned seven, and not only did she not finish first, I don’t think she even went to the finals.

And you know what?

She didn’t care one bit. She still loved to swim and we still loved to watch her. So the dream was dashed and fame and fortune could wait.

Years later, I have now watched all four of my kids try their hand at various sports. So far I don’t think I have a Michael Phelps or a Simone Biles, but I do have happy kids who enjoy the camaraderie and spirit of a good game.

Of course there have been ups and downs: some teams have been more positive than others, and that is almost always because of the behaviors of the parents that are involved.

The parents you say? Yep, it almost always seems to be that way. Parents have an inherent ability to foul up a really good thing when they get too involved in the game. I have sat next to and near people that I’ve made a mental note to distance myself from the next time around.

I don’t want the umpire to be tempted to throw me out by association.

As the back stories of parent of Olympians were told, it’s refreshing to know that the positivity still exists and sets a good example for all of us who dream big for our children.

A final note: As a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I loved hearing the story of the relationship between U.S. Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Katie Ledecky and her father.

They listened to ‘The Boss’ (Springsteen) on their way to swim practice when she was young. I’m not sure how much of an impact that may have had on Katie’s success but, if I could turn back the clock, I would certainly have cranked up Springsteen’s Glory Days while driving my daughter to the pool those many years ago, just in case.

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