As Sky Brown Wins a Bronze Medal at the Olympics – What Qualities Do You Need To Become An Olympic Athlete?

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

Sky Brown of Britain poses with her bronze medal in the women’s park skateboarding at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)



I have recently been interviewed on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester about the wonderful achievement of Sky Brown who won an Olympic  Bronze Medal in Skateboarding.

We talked about how we can nurture potential childhood stars without being pushy, and also how we can be realistic with kids who might have big dreams of doing something special which might not be possible.

Nurturing an Olympic athlete isn’t an exact science !

In the US, more than 26 million children aged six to 17 played team sports. In Australia, 60% of kids aged five to 14 participated in at least one organised sport outside of school hours but how do you know when to push ahead and when to pull back.

Many of us have a sporty child, but if they turn out to be a gifted athlete, here’s what you should really know about helping them pursue their talent.

What it takes:

I’ve been struck by the families interviewed afterwards back home about how their child’s lifestyle has affected all the while family from parents to siblings (as this really has been a pandemic Olympic Games and the experience has been totally different due to Covid restrictions) because you’ve really got to go into it with your eyes open as a whole family.

Participating in sport at this elite level is expensive, in terms of equipment, time off work for parents, coaching, travel to competitions and registration costs. It’s also a huge time commitment that can impact other children and family members.

Nick Holt, a professor in the faculty of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada advises, “Sport is going to become a major part of your life. When you’re not at work, you’re basically supporting your child’s sport. It’s a hard slog.”

Holidaying together becomes a problem due to training, competitions and commitment to excellence – as athletes have to continue their training whatever the weather, season or other family commitments and this can really put a strain on relationships within the whole family.


Resiliency is a buzz word at the moment, but it really is something to consider if you are going to encourage your child to go for elite sports because if you aren’t resilient, you should steer clear of getting involved in this lifestyle.

The best athletes in the world constantly make mistakes but it’s not about making mistakes, it’s about being able to rebound from them.  If, as a parent, you find it hard to watch your child fail, or you’d find yourself tempted to be critical, judgemental or pushy if they perform at less than their best, this is not the lifestyle for you.

How long do you need to prepare?

This varies a great deal, because athletes peak in different sports at different ages. Experts suggest you should give  your sporty children a broad base in a variety of activities before singling one out in which they specialise. Let them try different sports, or spend time running around outdoors learning fundamental movement skills before focusing on one thing.

Lots of parents of the children I taught in my years as  Deputy Headteacher, thought that they had to get their children involved in their chosen sport as early as possible, and give them extra training and specialised coaching.  But there’s a greater chance of that leading to injury, and I saw children burning out by the time they were teenagers because they’ve had enough – particularly in the commitment required in swimming.

Then it becomes an issue of ‘Who is this for – you or your child?’ are you striving or pushing because you missed out in your childhood…..?

However, if your child is showing signs of being particularly skilled in one field of course you’ll want to encourage and support them.

Pause to Ponder:

It should be your child’s decision and motivation, not yours.

Get a professional coach.

When a child is showing signs of becoming an elite athlete, musician, scholar or performer they need expert outside advice, which usually comes in the form of a coach.

If you find yourself too caught up in your child’s activities and are handing out coaching advice, you are blurring the lines & depriving your child of just being their ‘Mum or Dad’  and are possibly adding too much pressure on your child. Stay encouraging and a parent – but don’t become an expert in their chosen path.

Be willing to ask questions. When your child reaches a certain level, you may feel out of your depth because you don’t know enough about the sport or the training to know what the best steps are. Do some research by talking to other parents or going online, or asking professional bodies for their advice and guidance.

Check in once a year.

Make sure your child is in the driving seat. Each year, you should check in with your child to see if they are still enjoying everything they are doing.

It should be your child’s decision and motivation, not yours. I’ve seen parents get carried away with stars in their eyes, and a lot of them were engaged in activities themselves and didn’t succeed. I call it ‘The Mrs. Worthington Syndrome’ as it reminds me of the Noel Coward song:

‘Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
Don’t put your daughter on the stage
The profession is overcrowded
And the struggle’s pretty tough.’

Here are 9 of the most successful characteristics of Olympic athletes according to addicted2success.

  • Consistency.
  • Enjoyment.
  • Sacrifice & Discipline.
  • Social Support. .
  • Coach-Athlete Relationship.
  • Delegation.
  • Clear Long-term Goal.
  • Work-ethic.

Balance and Perspective

I think it’s just about balance and keeping things in perspective and enjoying the journey, not always getting fixated on the destination.

It’s a fine line between supporting your child’s interest, passion and talent and watching them struggle to make it.

Being active and inspired to skateboard, climb, play football or dance is fantastic for a child’s wellbeing and confidence – it also keeps their technology use in balance.

‘The Can Do Kid’s Journal: Discover your Confidence Superpower’  is bursting with tried-and-tested activities that will empower children aged 7-11 with skills they need to ‘have a go’ develop tenacity, resilience and a ‘Can Do Kid’ attitude to Life.

This fun filled illustrated journal is perfect for developing resilience, confidence and a growth mindset. It offers kids a multitude of engaging guided activities to help them make lots of small changes that will make a BIG difference in their day-to-day lives.

In this illustrated journal, children discover:

  • how to believe in themselves
  • how to face challenges with confidence
  • learn to bounce back after setbacks

This journal is designed to help children reflect on and record what they are good at and to celebrate their strengths.

Order your copy today!

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Thanks to Worklife from the BBC website

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