As published in “BehindEveryAthlete.com” September 12, 2019
As a kid, I never thought about the Olympics.
I thought about going to the library and taking out a “how-to” book on self-coaching for track and field, along with a pile of crummy joke books to add to my joke collection. I thought about jumping over curbside garbage pails on the way home from school to practice hurdling just because I wanted to do what my older sisters could do. I thought about surpassing my personal best in as many events as I was allowed to compete in for my elementary school because I loved how competition always brought out my best results. For each of the three meets that would sum up the track & field season, I recorded my results in my journal next to my thoughts about boys I liked and other important life events.
Now as a former Olympian turned coach and a parent of a 10-year-old daughter, I can appreciate how simple my life was back when I started sport.
My peers and others would say you’re going to go to the Olympics.
I didn’t know how to respond. At a young age, I was recognized for my talent. I internalized it as some kids are told they will be doctors or veterinarians one day; I guess I was expected to be jumping in a sandpit and throwing spears for Canada one day. It could have been worse.
I have spent my fair share of time spectating in stands, coaching and observing athletes of all levels and conversing with parents. What I’m hearing is a deep desire for sport to play a more significant role in the long-term character development of the athletes as individuals.
I was fortunate to have a long career, competing for Canada at the world stage for 10years in a row, minus the one year (2009) when I was pregnant with my daughter, between my two Olympic appearances.
In watching fellow athletes of different sports come and go from Varsity and National teams, the sad reality I witnessed was that many athletes were not having those grandiose experiences sport promised to offer. The result is many ended up leaving sport without wanting to ever look back. Which means, losing potential coaches, volunteers and supporters of sport in Canada.
Who’s at fault here; the coaches, parents, sporting system? I’m not here to point my finger, actually… in my roles as a mentor and coach, I’m looking to place my finger on what’s missing for these athletes. Why are so many athletes leaving the sporting system feeling like their best just wasn’t enough?
I think it starts with the stories and messages athletes buy into at a young age. Nowadays, I think parents need more guidance than ever before. It can be very confusing with all the mixed messages. Parents want to do what’s best for their kids and yet they are in a culture with different sports that are supporting the wrong things.