RUNNING >> Juniors and Frances >> Hallmarks of the Champion Parent

Hallmarks of the Champion Parent

Behind every athlete dreaming of being a champion is a parent who wants to assist them to that goal but despite the numbers of athletes that have gone through the Australian school and club system over recent years only about 100 men have represented Australia in all the middle/long distance events (800m, 1500m, 5000m, 3000m SC, 10,000m or marathon) in all the Olympics held since 1896 and about 33 women since the inception of a full program in 1984.

What does this really mean? It means three things. 1. Based on three athletes per event, there have been about 400 opportunities for a male athlete to achieve Olympic selection over 108 years but only about 100 have done it! An average of less than 1 athlete per event per Olympics! In the women’s events things have been basically the same. 2. The coaching has to be high quality and focussed on the longer term. 3. Parents who understand junior results mean little and who support the coach play a critical role in ensuring the success of their children

So is becoming an Olympian is not easy! On the other hand it’s actually not that hard either! Sound like a contradiction?

The truth is Herb Elliott was totally correct when he said many years ago that most athletes only train to 70% because they cannot really push themselves and Percy Cerutty divided athletes into two categories, ‘willers’- those can make a 100% effort until the task was achieved - and ‘wishers’- those with equal potential and similar goals but who do not have the necessary dedication, perseverance or intelligence to be successful.

What makes succeeding easier than it sounds?
  1. The vast majority of truly talented athletes are often so accustomed to early success coming without having to give much commitment that when that full commitment is required they are unable to give it.
  2. Later, when talent evens out and the willingness to work hard becomes a more important factor, it is 99% likely that the athlete who has enjoyed early successes will fail to progress significantly and eventually to drop out of the sport.
  3. Coaches and parents often assist in the process of eliminating the truly talented athletes from the sport by focusing on the wrong things. The coach focuses on winning under age State and National Championships and the parent boasts of their kid’s successes in these competitions. Meanwhile the less talented, usually more committed, kids are working with better coaches and, like so many of Australia’s greatest athletes who never won a Junior Championship, are planning for real success as seniors. Parents need to remember it is much easier for coaches to produce age group champions than senior national champions or international representatives so judging coaches on junior results is a mistake.
  4. Many kids have 'pushy' parents although, unfortunately, most of these parents believe they are simply being supportive.
A champion parent can tell whether their child is a “Willer” or a “Wisher”

Willer’s are relatively simple people. They will:
Wisher’s are a much more complicated type of athlete. They come in all shapes and sizes.
Then there are those who fall somewhere in-between these two types. However unless they move totally into the “willer” category they automatically become “wisher’s”.

Parents can play an invaluable role in their child's development from school to the Olympics by:

1. Understanding coaching is a profession that is as demanding of a coach as research is to a scientist.

2. Understanding programming - and that a program can be of one of four types
3. Understanding coaching methodologies

Obviously coaching “willer’s” is a relatively easy task. “Willer’s” select proven coaches, they do not change coaches’ unless something major occurs, they understand success as juniors is much less important than senior success, they have the intelligence to set realistic tangible long term goals, they commit themselves to achieving these goals and they let nothing stand between them and the success they want.

Coaching “wisher’s” is not so easy and may involve a number of strategies.
  1. The first strategy is to reject the athlete as soon as the weakness becomes apparent - a common approach with coaches seeking personal glory or working for institutions such as Sports Institutes. A 'pushy' parent may induce the same response from an experienced coach!
  2. A second is to employ a “make or break” approach in which the athlete is subjected to a very rigorous routine and he or she makes the decision about continuing or not. Again, this is a not uncommon approach in an institutional type of situation and it most certainly is the approach taken by the elite units of most of the world’s Armed Forces eg. Australia’s Special Air Forces or the US Navy Seals. Getting selected into the Kenyan Track team or the Australian Swim team also has this ‘survival of the fittest’ aspect. Kids are rarely ‘made’ using this method.
  3. The third option is to try and work through the athlete’s problems. This involves time and patience and the coach must try balance the amount of time and energy he or she is putting into this athlete with the needs of all the members of the squad. However if the coach follows the Arthur Lydiard’s approach, progressively strengthening the athlete over a number of years the athlete will improve. Gradually, as Lydiard said, “from enjoyment comes the will to win”. The steady development of stamina and speed will result in faster times and better results regardless of whether the athlete is highly motivated or not. Some athletes may never be able to get more than 90% out of themselves while others will continue to get 110% but regardless of all that greater strength, stamina and speed will result in improved performances and I have actually coached a number of “90%’ers” into the Olympics because they were very genetically endowed.
The CHAMP and the CHUMP

In the 1960’s Bud Winter, possibly the greatest sprint coach of all time, wrote a simple book called “So You Want To Be A Sprinter”. This book contained just about anything any coach needed to know to produce a sub 10 second 100m runner, a sub 20 second 200m runner and a sub 44 second 400m runner because that is the type of sprinter he produced. In the book he had a chapter entitled “The CHAMP and the CHUMP” and in this chapter he detailed the characteristics of both type of athlete.

This idea of Champs and Chumps can be more broadly applied than just to athletes.

THE CHAMPION PARENT UNDERSTANDS:
THE CHUMP PARENT THINKS:
Where does a potential senior elite have to go? The current junior times listed below give an indication.

Events
800m
1,500m
3,000m
5,000m
10,000m
3000m SC
Male
1:43.64 (1:45.14/10th)
3:30..24 (3:35.47/10th)
7:30.67 (7:39.82/10th)
12:52.61 (13:02.75/10th)
27:11.18 (27:27.87/10th)
7:58.66 (8:20.67/10th)
Female
1:57.18 (1:58.37/10th)
3:51.34 (4:03.50/10th)
8:28.83 (8:44.57/10th)
14:39.94 (14:53.99/10th)
30:31.55 (31:40.56/10th)
9:30.71 (Aus) (

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