I’m not female and I’m certainly not as fast as I once was, but I can still hear a great message when it is delivered.
During a question-and-answer period of the Fast and Female Ski Nationals Champ Camp — held in Corner Brook last week in conjunction with the 2014 Haywood Ski Nationals — Olympian Heidi Widmer said something that rang through to me even more than her message of intent.
Chop wood, carry water was her message to the audience filled with female athletes, and who knows what of the future. For her that meant keeping it simple, she said. No matter how daunting the task, breaking it down to its simplest form and taking it one step at a time is great advice indeed.
However, a woman in the crowd asked Widmer what advice she had for parents. Now the 23-year-old quickly clarified for the closest thing to parenting she has done is babysitting, but her insight from an elite athlete’s standpoint can be a lesson for all parents out there.
“Always be patient, and let them be,” she said. “I think that is the coolest thing for parents to be is just hands off.”
From what I have seen, that is probably the hardest for a parent to do too.
Your child is not you. He or she will not particularly like the same things you did or excel at the same things you did. Certainly, you should not expect to live out your own failures or shortcomings through what your child could accomplish.
Especially in today’s sporting world, where sports seem to have become so demanding — both within their typical seasons and year-round — it is important to make sure our young athletes are doing exactly what they want to do.
I have seen the impacts of those demands on young boys and girls, saw the tears of young athletes who have missed tournaments in one sport because of the demands of another. I have felt the parental pressure of a parent in pushing an athlete toward a certain sport, when it is devastating her to miss another.
Widmer said she appreciates that her parents allowed her to make her own choices, stayed arms-length from her athletics, and did not hang on her every performance and result. I say kudos to them.
For every parent who does the opposite — and I am probably as guilty as anybody, but trying hard not to be — consider how far this elite cross-country skier has been able to go without somebody breathing down her neck.
Realizing there are tough choices to be made, the message is clear: make sure it is the athlete who is making the choices, and making those decisions for him or herself.
Widmer said dreams and goals should be set by what you enjoy. Sound advice.
If you don’t enjoy something as much as you should, maybe you should reconsider what it is you are doing. It may take a lot of courage, but if your parents are not seeing that, maybe you need to tell them.