Parenting Olympic Gymnasts

The Olympics are always an exciting time, to see those teenagers and early adults become the best in the world. It’s awe-inspiring.

I want to do that! Ainsley said about her newest Heroine Gou Jing Jing.

Those children train every day from the time they are 3 years old for hours and hours. They don’t go to regular school, they practice and practice and practice every single day. Their parents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on training, I told her.

Oh, I don’t want to do that, she said.

All that sacrifice – of youth, of fun, of childhood – makes me want to cry when one of them gets injured at the last minute and can’t compete, like poor Chellsie Memmel whose ankle was injured and then she fell from the parallel bars during the qualifying round.

Listening to the bios you realize that, at least at first, shooting for the Olympics is a parental dream. Or, in the case of China, the State’s dream.

Some of the Chinese girls were required to leave their family lives to train for the Olympics because they were inherently extra bendy and flexible or showed innate swimming skills when young.

Some say this is unfair, but my husband says, they were saved from a life of being farm or factory workers.

He has a point.

Some of the American athletes have parents who were Olympians. Mom or Dad won Gold – talk about pressure.

On the bios I heard that many of these teenage girls left their homes to train and one admitted that she has no friends outside the team.

What do you think? Does watching the Olympics make you want to sign your kid up for some hard core training?

6 replies
  1. Anna says:

    No, it doesn’t. As a gymnast myself, I understand the urge to have my daughter do the same – gymnastics was my first love. But I don’t want to choose my daughter’s life for her. I signed her up for one class for fun last year, and she was pretty intimidated being one of the youngest and most shy children in the class. Now though, she loves to do flips and tumble in the living room. Next time, I’ll have her try dance, swimming, soccer, etc, until she can pick her favorite(s). And I’ll allow her to compete to whatever level she is comfortable with/ interested in. I was never allowed to compete; I started talking about the Olympics when I was four or so. My parents couldn’t afford the sort of training required, but if they could they wouldn’t have let me do it because of how grueling it is; how anti social it can be, and potentially unhealthy. I was angry for years, but now I finally understand.
    Sorry for the length!

  2. Jen says:

    We have our first gymnastics class tonight…lol!

    Doing three activities on Monday night IS hardcore. For me anyway.

  3. Tracee says:

    Anna – I’m much like you – I want her to participate and discover where her strengths lie and help her develop skills that excite her. But, training for the Olympics is out of our league!

  4. candeelady says:

    For some kids it is definitely the right path. Michael Phelps for instance was a kid with ADD and a “problem”. When he began channeling that energy into swimming it turned his life around. The internal “drive” to give ones life to intense training must come from the individual. A parent may encourage but cannot force that internal drive. If my child had that “drive” I would support it wholeheartedly. I beleive american athletes can enjoy a balanced life of extensive practice and also family and friends.
    I think what China does is wrong. The kids see their family once a year – so they have no family bonds really. It’s communism – EVERYTHING is about the sacrafice of the individual for the government. What happens to the atheletes who don’t perform as expected after YEARS of practice. No one knows??? I don’t think we want to know – incredible shame I would imagineand God knows where they go to live.
    AND what about the opening ceremony debacle of the two little girls?? Please follow my link as I blogged about it = it made me so ANGRY to treat kids that way but ALL TO MAKE CHINA LOOK GOOD

  5. Tracee says:

    What happens to them? They go back to the farm or factory and spend their lives making our $1 store crap.

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