By NINA TI
As we celebrate the arrival of Asia’s rising sports superstars to the opening of 28th SEA Games this week, let’s not forget to save some applause for the tough band of supporters or “crazy” parents and coaches who perform the real show behind this marvellous parade.
It usually takes a team of dedicated supporters to produce a dedicated athlete. Each of these amazing sportsmen and sportswomen who you see in the marchpast most likely grew up with a family member who wanted to win more than they did. Hunger, the kind that can numb pain and dry tears, is inherited.
A person who can get up at 5am to train has the support and devotion of someone at home who is willing to get up at 4am.
“Crazy” parents are no longer the secret ingredient behind every sporting giant’s success. As a parent of a national-ranked junior tennis player myself, I like to use the term “dedicated and disciplined” parent.
If you are a person who believes in becoming the best that you can be, remember, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
High-level athletes start really young. For example, elite players in tennis, squash and badminton are introduced to their racquets at five to eight years old, which is really the age when they can count beyond their toes and keep score during super tiebreaks, the first milestone for children in competition.
Later on, coaches and other professionals such as nutritionists and physiotherapists take over the role of the relentless parent, but by then the ground rules for discipline and excellence have been set.
In my experience travelling from one junior tournament to the next, I see parents showing tough love, which according to Todd Widom, a former ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) pro, “does NOT mean that you beat down the child mentally, but you explain and expect that certain things need to be done properly, and if they are not, what are the consequences.”
For every young, up-and-coming athlete, there is a parent or a coach who is leading by example through patterns of willpower and discipline.
For those who wail in horror and ask What about having fun? I can only point to the examples that grown-ups use in work. Fun is something you do, when the results don’t matter.
Success follows discipline, and if you pay your dues and put in your hours and your 100% focus into your job, there is a very high chance that you will win at this too.
Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is doing what needs to be done, at the right time, to the best of your ability.
The young men and women proudly representing their countries at the SEA Games have physical prowess and mental strength, but beyond any doubt, they have been gifted with the right people in their lives.
They did not arrive in Singapore by themselves.
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First appeared on Leaderonomics.com. Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 6 June 2015
Nina Ti is part of the team that manages social media and distribution of digital content for Leaderonomics. She writes on HR and management topics. All views and opinions expressed here are her own.