Born to be a Champion....?
Some children practise sports because they like to do so; others do it because it is better for their health. But there are also children who practise sports because they cannot do otherwise. Just as there are musicians who were interested in the piano or the violin at a very young age, so it is with athletes.
Children can give indications at a very young age that they are fascinated by sport. Not long ago I saw a video of a girl following the performance of her favourite gymnast. Her father helped her make the summersault on her parents' bed and she copied the entire exercise. Is that automatically a future to be top gymnast? Maybe not, but maybe it is a precursor to something bigger for some children if they put a string on the floor to imitate the long jump during the Olympic Games they see on television.
Of course it is a combination of genetic predisposition, character and environmental factors: Physical power, energy and mindset. But how do you deal with this when the child is so young and there is no sports club to join at such a young age? Where should they go with their energy and urge to perform? Not weekly on the toddler gym, but focused on the sport that they are fascinated about.
You may wonder whether the fascination for a sport at such a young age is justified. But what if the child indicates that he or she has no other interest? Music is said to be good for development, that's what people think is socially acceptable. Then people forget that exercising sport has the same effect.
As a parent you look for alternatives. And then you end up with the usual sports, which are accessible from a young age. Such as soccer. But then it appears that soccer is not the solution either. The planes in the sky are more interesting than the ball on the field. Shooting penalties is still nice, you can put your muscle power in, but the concept of team sport is also not for everyone.
The world opens the moment you finally grow old enough to become a member of the only association you want to be a member of; the athletics club. And if, after all, you are still a year too young, as a six-year-old, you mainly participate in the training your father gives to older athletes; you know that this is your world. Shot put, hockey ball, long jump....
The moment that everything falls into place can be during a first competition; that a third podium place is achieved, without you counting on it. But that it tastes like "more". And that day is the beginning of your journey. No more bronze medals, but striving for the ultimate goal; gold.
Can a child of four or six understand that sports are his passion and ambition? Probably not. At that age that kind of emotions and feelings cannot be described yet. But they can certainly feel that there is enormous satisfaction after a training or competition. They will feel proud or disappointment. They will experience the hunger to win, being angry with themselves if they haven’t done what they should have done at a competition.....
A frequently heard comment is "Just let the children enjoy the game, it is not that important" and "Participating is more important than winning". Competition seems like a wrong word nowadays. "Everyone is a winner".
But these children don't see it that way. Their goal is to win. They want to be better than the rest of the participants, better than they were themselves that last time. Is that wrong? I do not think so. In this way children learn to deal with disappointments. They’ll learn that it's okay to lose, to make mistakes. Learn that there will be another chance to improve them next time. And that is what they want.
But they also learn to set goals, focus on what is important to them at the time and that they don't always have to rely on what other people think of it. Because other people do not see the child who is impatiently waiting at home until he can start exercising again or the child who comes home from a competition. Practising sports make you happy. Even at a young age. It helps children through difficult periods, such as puberty, gives them confidence and an identity of their own.
Children who play the violin at the age of three are socially accepted to develop into a talented musician, but top athletes are also born. And not made.