With the Tokyo Olympics set to begin from 23rd July, everyone’s attention shifts to “How many medals will our athletes win at the Olympics? and we start comparing our results with other country performances.
Before we shift our focus on the results, let us understand "What it takes to raise an Olympian?."
To win a medal, we need a team of experts like a Sports Psychologist, Nutritionist, Physio, Strength and conditioning coach, and video analyst to work with the athlete. All these experts have a common goal, i.e., to improve an athlete’s performance as the margins are very small between the medalist and the person who comes 4th.
Along with these experts, the three main stakeholders in this journey are the parent, athlete, and coach. Let us understand what they go through in this journey to fulfill their dream of representing the country at the Olympics.
They are the Unsung heroes in this journey and the 1st coach of the child. Without their commitment and sacrifices, there is no champion.
Parents who raise their children in sports do not lead a normal life. Their life revolves around their child’s sport, and they have no social life.
If the child’s practice is at 5 am, the parent has to wake up at 4 am, cook, and take them to practices. Along with that, they have to take the child to fitness sessions, school, etc. If the parent does not show commitment, the child will not show much interest.
If the child starts playing the game at 6, the parent must accompany the child to the practices and tournaments for at least ten years.
The parent had to forego transfers and promotions for the child’s sports career. Some of the parents move from one place to another place for better coaching and facilities.
The expenses are not much for most sports in the early years, but the monthly expenses skyrocket once the child starts traveling to play tournaments. Some parents sell their ancestral property or take loans from the bank to support their child’s sports career.
Not many people understand the path parent and child are traveling and criticize them for their decisions. The critics are even more if it is a girl child.
The child is not going to win every time they step on the court. Parents have to be patient, keep their emotions in check, and support the child unconditionally irrespective of their wins and losses.
There is a constant fear about the child’s sports career and have questions like, “What if he does not become a player? Are we doing the right thing? “and so on.
The parent has to balance the child’s education working with the school management. They need to take permission for their child to come late and leave early from school. They also take extra classes and tuitions to cover the syllabus.
The parent not only has to take care of the sports child's nutrition but also has to adjust the diet of the other family members.
If the child has siblings, one parent has to take care of their career as well.
The parent has to hire a nutritionist, Sports Psychologist, Strength and condition coach as the child starts progressing.
If it is a team sport, parents will have many sleepless nights in this journey thinking about whether the child will get selected to the team or not.
They are the Superheroes in this journey, overcoming many challenges to pursue their dream. They have tremendous self-belief, passion, determination, and perseverance to make their goal a reality.
The game-winning shot is amazing, but we don’t see the number of hours they put into mastering those skills. 95 % of their time is spent behind the scenes on the practice courts.
They sacrifice their childhood to pursue their goal. Players have a scheduled life, unlike other kids. Their life revolves around practice, gym, home. They have very few friends and a less social life.
They can’t eat whatever they want and sleep whenever they want as it affects their performance. Sleep and nutrition are critical parameters for their performance.
They spend hours in the gym every day to perform at the highest level.
They have many tough losses in their career, yet they don’t give up and bounce back stronger. They use their failures to get better.
They had to deal with the pressure and expectations of the entire country.
They have to deal with critics for every bad performance, and the naysayers will question their selection in the team.
Some of the injuries are common in sports, and some are unexpected that happens in the game. The most difficult part for an athlete is the recovery period as they struggle mentally with self-doubts about the comeback.
There will be days nothing will be happening as planned, not feel like practicing, yet they motivate themselves and show up.
It takes years of hard work to produce a result at the highest level. They stay patient and trust the process.
They are the Masters in this journey. Most of them have become coaches as they could not pursue their dream of representing the country or their career is cut short due to injuries.
Their life revolves around the sport, and they want to fulfill their dream by producing an athlete.
They sacrifice their social life and give their hundred percent to the sport.
It takes years of hard work to raise an athlete, and the coach has to wait patiently and support the child.
After every loss, the parent is worried about the child’s career. The coach has to educate and convince the parent that the results will come and let the child continue the sport.
They are constantly researching and learning from other coaches to improve and help the athlete. They are lifelong learners.
They motivate the athlete to give their best and stand by them during their good and bad times.
Using sport as a medium, the coach teaches many life lessons and helps the athlete grow.
Some athletes are from lower-middle-class families, and they do not have the money to pursue their passion. The coach takes care of their training and supports them.
Most of the athletes come from middle and lower-middle-class families. They do not have proper infrastructure and coaching till they make a mark at the national level. They do not have a Sports Psychologist, Physio, video analyst even after reaching the national level. It is not an even playing field to compare our athletes to athletes from other countries. Our athletes did their best to reach this level with available resources, hard work, passion, and perseverance.
They have come a long way from being a 6-year-old dreaming of representing the country at the Olympics to actually represent the country at the Olympics.
Remember, no one play’s to lose. Some days things may not work out as planned. Irrespective of their results, let us support the athletes for what they went through in this journey to bring laurels for the country.
Making it to the Olympics itself is a huge achievement !!
Winning a medal or not should not define them.
Let’s go India !! Bring it on!!
Note: In our country, the sport is growing rapidly with various sports leagues coming up, parents are increasingly interested in taking sport as a career option for their child. The government is also taking very good initiatives to identify talent from the grassroots, schools, and colleges by organizing Khelo India events, investing in coaches’ education and infrastructure. Former players have started NGOs like Olympic Gold quest, Gosport’s foundation, Laskhya sports by sponsoring and supporting high-performance athletes. It takes time to produce a result. We are moving in the right direction, and in the coming years, athletes will win many medals for the country.