In our current Millennial culture of ‘having it all’, I often think that young people are getting the wrong message and it only leads to disappointment and feelings of failure down the line. Contrary to popular belief, it really isn’t possible for anyone to do anything, however passionate they are about it.
When I was a child I went to ballet classes, which I really enjoyed. But, thank goodness I didn’t decide that ballet was going to be my goal. Thanks goodness I wasn’t told by a famous ballerina,
“Anyone can do what I do with the right commitment!”
I might have loved ballet, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I’m now 6 foot tall and weigh 80kgs. Darcy Bussell I am not! And however much work or dreaming I may have done, prima ballerina was never going to be a realistic goal.
Through my work in high performance sport, I have often heard successful Olympians tell young people that anyone can become an Olympic champion.
“Don’t be afraid to have a dream and go for it, it worked for me”
But almost all the Olympians that I have worked with are pretty talented people, they are born with some traits or physical attributes that set them ahead of the pack. Yes, they absolutely have to work hard and be single minded, they have to be ruthless in their determination. But there are plenty of hard-working, single minded, determined others who had the same dream but sadly fell by the wayside and now think it’s something they did wrong. I will admit, there are a few unlikely Olympians who have crossed my path, but they are very few and far between, in the main, you can see quite early what the future may promise.
So what does this mean for parents? How can you guard against your bright young thing becoming disillusioned and feeling like a failure? I would offer the following advice.
Encourage your child to try lots of different things when they are young, different sports, musical instruments, hobbies and activities. Having a breadth of experience gives children many useful tools and the more things they try, the more likely they are to find that special something.
Try not to specialise too early. Even if your child LOVES one particular sport or activity, statistically they are far more likely to burn out and / or suffer injuries if they do that thing to the exclusion of everything else too early.
And lastly, if your child is absolutely set on something and will not be swayed from the path of trying to ‘make it’, even though you may think they don’t have what it takes. As long as they are enjoying it, I would give them your wholehearted support. One thing that sets the ‘unlikely’ Olympians apart in my experience is that they absolutely and unequivocally love doing their sport, and whatever the outcome, the journey was the reward.