Sunday 18 August 2019

Pushy parents in danger of turning children off sport

Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong

Now that the under-age G.A.A. season has arrived, a leading child therapist had some interesting observations on national radio last week.

The psychotherapist said 'G.A.A. tiger mothers' may be pushing their children too hard by forcing them to attend 5 a.m. practice before school and placing too much pressure on them.

Child psychotherapist Colman Noctor says that some parents are projecting their own dreams and ambitions on to their children and raising their stress levels.

Speaking on Today with Seán O'Rourke, he said: 'We have gone through an economic change in this country, and I use those terms ('G.A.A. tiger mom') to make people identify with them.

'It comes down to the comparative culture we live in. There is a relative drive to be the best. If you take Leaving Cert. results as an example, five years ago 400 marks was a good result, at the moment it is 500.

'I use the idea of the G.A.A. tiger mum because G.A.A. is an amateur sport and there are no major leagues in it but there is a drive in parents to push children to achieve what they want them to achieve. But in reality how many of us are the best we can be all the time?

'I see children being driven to swimming pools at 5 a.m. before school to achieve their parents' dreams rather than their own and finding it difficult to step out of that demand. There is a drive to keep up with the Joneses which has not gone away,' he said.

He added that children are finding it difficult to deal with their parents' demands, with some instances of children being roused for practice as early as 5 a.m. on school days.

Mr. Noctor has written about the new breed of so-called tiger moms infiltrating the under-age G.A.A. scene in his new book, 'Cop On, What It Is and Why Your Child Needs It'.

He said that sometimes parents' strong drive as directed through their children's sporting achievements was derived from their own sense of competitiveness.

The term 'tiger mom' was coined by U.S. author Amy Chua to describe her no-nonsense technique for raising high-achieving children.

The 'you want to win no matter what' mentality will be evident on the sidelines of G.A.A. games, particularly under-age, over the coming eight months as clubs and players, urged on by parents, strive for success on the playing fields.

The demands being placed on under-age players, not just by mentors but also supporting parents, has been much commented on at higher levels of the G.A.A. in the past, particularly at County Board, but it's something that has not been addressed adequately.

The G.A.A's main discussion over past months has been levelled around burn-out. To address this Congress dealt with players at 17 and under, and their playing at adult levels, but the matter is of more concern at the lower levels of the Association.

The experience of seeing players being abused even by their own mentors, many times for their inability to win a ball, is a regular one, although the young players of the future will be striving to be the best. However, this means nothing to many of those in charge and supporting teams.

This even moves through to abuse being hurled at the referee. While the young players will be trying their hardest, such attitudes are taking the fun out of our games.

At Under-12 and -14 levels, much more fun should be introduced back into the games.

The games should be made enjoyable for the young players, a way of creating friendships, and a way of improving their skills levels, without the peer pressure they are coming under in the present climate.

Priorities should be to provide sporting outlets for children. They should be encouraged to enjoy the games of hurling and football, be as good as they can be, and learn to accept defeat as well as victory.

You want to win but not at all costs. You want to be best but not by taking the enjoyment out of games.

As an Association the G.A.A. is determined to provide a sporting channel for the young players at under-age but they are also determined to provide opportunities for young players to express themselves in a sporting environment.

Wexford People

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