How to raise an Olympian

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Here’s the lowdown on raising a future Hidilyn, Neshty, Carlo, EJ and Margielyn.

If there’s one thing on parents’ minds these days (apart from the GCQ), it’s how to raise an Olympian, just like the four amazing Filipinos who’ve made history in the last few weeks. Yes, we’re talking about Olympians — and some of them medalists to boot — Hidiyln Diaz, Neshty Petecio, Carlo Paalam, EJ Obiena, Margielyn Didal, Carlos Yulo, Kristina Marie Knott, Remedy Rule, Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Juvic Pagunsan, Bianca Pagdanganan, Yuka Saso, Kiyomi Watanabe, Cris Nievarez, Jayson Valdez, Luke Gebbie, Kurt Barbosa and Elreen Ando of the Philippine Olympic team. 

Apart from the many life lessons learned from sports, it also teaches other valuable lessons that one can’t learn elsewhere. And yes, parents play a big role in making their child’s Olympic dreams a reality. If you think your child has what it takes to become an Olympian, here’s how you can encourage and help them reach their goals:

1. Get involved 

It was Neshty Petecio’s dad who taught her how to box and EJ Obiena’s parents — both national athletes themselves — who inspired him to become a pole vaulter. While we might not have the athletic prowess these parents have, we can get involved and make the necessary sacrifices to help our kids go pro. Whether it’s making time to show up for competitions or enrolling them in classes, how involved you are affects their success in sports. Be their biggest cheerleader and practice with them at home. You may annoy them at times, but they’ll thank you in the end. 

2.  Teach them that talent isn’t everything

A lot of kids can feel discouraged when they see their teammates learning a new skill with ease or doing exceptionally well “naturally”. As parents, we need to encourage the learning process. How you got there, rather than winning should be emphasized. Instead of congratulating your kids every time they’ve scored a goal or sunk in a three-pointer, ask them what they’ve learned. This way, you’re focusing more on the process rather than skills. Trust us, it’s better for them in the long run!

3. Pick the right sport 

While it was only natural that EJ Obiena take up pole vaulting, Neshty take up boxing just like her dad and Hidilyn Diaz being inspired by her cousin to start weight lifting, not every child thinks of themselves as athletic. Which is why it’s important for parents to help their kids find what they love. Both Margielyn Didal and Carlo Paalam only happened to chance upon their sports, based on their circumstances. At just 7 years old, Carlo Paalam won his first amateur boxing match after scrapping it up at a backyard boxing match. While Margielyn, at 12, faced angry security guards because of skateboarding. 

Try to find what activity resonates most with your child. Does she like to do cartwheels in the backyard? Why not try out gymnastics. Does she like climbing your furniture? Maybe rock climbing is the ticket. 

4. Don’t push them too hard 

It’s great to be involved, but know where to draw the line. Don’t be that parent screaming their lungs out at every match — it’ll stress both you AND your child out. One reason why many kids drop out of sports is because they feel pressured to perform — AKA it’s just not fun anymore. And yes, a parent’s over-involvement is a major fun-killer. Remember, nobody joined the Olympics , or any professional sport for that matter, when they were kids. It takes years of training and competition to get there. Instead of pressuring them, nurture their love for the sport and keep it fun. After all, what kid doesn’t love having fun?

5. Teach them that winning isn’t everything 

Even the greatest athletes have faced their share of losses. One of the most important lessons we can teach our kids, as cliche as it may sound, is that winning isn’t everything. By embracing one’s losses, kids can learn from their mistakes and use them as inspiration to do better next time. Be that reassuring voice in their corner, telling them to use their losses as a chance to become a better version of themselves. 

Above all these lessons, we need to remember that our kids are just kids. They have a long way to go, and yes, a lot can change. At this stage, instead of focusing on kids’ athleticism, we need to look at developing their mindset and keeping it positive and lighthearted. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding one’s passion — whether it’s in a sport or not — and us being that strong pillar of support they need. 

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