“Celebrate your strength and resilience”.
These were the words of US gymnast Simone Biles, who shocked the world when she withdrew from the team finals in the 2021 Olympics after a single vault due to mental health issues. Consequently, she withdrew from all the other competitions she was supposed to compete in the Olympics, except the beam.
Now, bear in mind Simone Biles is no push-over. As one of the greatest of all time, a five-time world champion and reigning Olympic all-around champion, she is famous for her toughness and resilience. At the 2018 World Championships she won six medals (the maximum possible for a female gymnast) while suffering from kidney stones.
This brings to light the devastating effects the mental pressure to achieve in sports can have on the most seasoned, world-class-level athletes – effects which are highly-damaging when placed on the young, developing minds of children.
Studies theorize that almost 1 in 4 young people of this generation will experience depression before they’re 19 years old! The reason: Excessive parental pressure.
Sporting events, academics and reward-based competitions can lead to parents applying pressure, becoming obsessive with performance and inducing anxiety in their child. As a result, the child experiences a heightened sense of insecurity.
Another statistic: 70% of kids quit playing sports by the age of 13 because “It’s not fun anymore”. They also cite reasons like overtraining, their own skill at the game and time constraints.
Young athletes may feel their hard work and motivation is driven by parental pressure rather than their own desires. Therefore, poor results or losses in competitive environments would require the child to receive more support and consolation. But parents are often caught up in their own problems and insecurities, due to which they end up scolding their children, which further worsens the situation. Some signs that your child is stressed could be:
Competitiveness is ingrained in human nature. It helps us step-up to the challenge and motivates us to do better to be able to achieve goals.
But when a child is exposed to unreasonable stress from their parents, they end up losing that motivation and confidence; sometimes well into their adulthood.
It is the parent’s role to understand their child’s threshold for ‘pressure’. You don’t need to take up their sport yourself, but rather take the time to listen and support your child navigate the obstacles. Use the sport as an opportunity to strengthen your parent-child bond further, through losses and victories.
No matter their performance, your unconditional care and appreciation is what they deserve. Sports are meant to be the most exciting part of a child’s day. So let’s get the kids back on the court.
Let’s make sports fun again!