Being 'sports parents'

Being 'sports parents'
Brothers (from left) Ow Yeong Yu Xiang and Wei Bin with their parents, Mr Ow Yeong Boon Tian and Madam Stella Tan.

Parents who support their children's sporting pursuits can sometimes navigate tricky terrain.

While there are "sports parents" who appreciate their kids' efforts and motivate them, there are others who may impose their hopes and expectations on their children, or try to vicariously live a dream they never achieved for themselves, says Dr Fabian William, the head coach and director at Fabian Williams Coaching Concepts, a coaching company that specialises in track and field and triathlons.

He cites a case this year where a parent told him he wanted his 11-year-old son to be a sprinter, though the boy said that he preferred badminton.

Dr William says: "Overly enthusiastic parents who emphasise winning and push the need for better performance can produce stress on the children.

"We need to stick to what sports is about - sportsmanship, discipline, teamwork and learning to care and share."

Another expert, Mr Zhang Jian Lan, 43, the head swimming coach at Aquatic Performance Swim Club, cautions parents against an "instant noodles" culture of expecting fast results.

"To train swimmers to reach Olympic or Asian Games standards, it takes 10 years. It cannot be done in one or two years," says Mr Zhang, who adds that big expectations may mean that promising athletes do not develop in a healthy way.

They took their own hurdles everywhere

When Ow Yeong Yu Xiang was in Primary 6 and his brother, Wei Bin, in Primary 3, their parents bought their own hurdles for their sons' track and field training outside school.

Their father, IT director Ow Yeong Boon Tian, 48, says: "When they were in primary school, we bought about 10 hurdles so they could improve their hurdling skills with a private coach."

The hurdles were kept in the boot of the car, ready to be used for training sessions at Bedok and Toa Payoh stadiums then. The equipment was set aside when the boys entered Hwa Chong Institution and were trained by coaches there.

At the 2013 National Inter School Track & Field Championships, Yu Xiang, now 20 and a full-time national serviceman, broke a 27- year-old record to win the Boys' A Division 400m hurdles.

At the same event last year, Wei Bin, now a 16-year-old Hwa Chong Institution student, won two golds in hurdles and track events.

Mr Ow says he and his wife, freelance wellness consultant Stella Tan, 46, have been recording videos of their sons' competitions and training since Yu Xiang was 11.

"It is partly for the memories and partly for them to learn from their mistakes," he says, referring to how athletes view such footage to improve their technique.

Mr Ow, a former national athlete, also rubs muscle gel on his sons' sore muscles after a gruelling session. He supports them because he says: "Sports builds character and cultivates a person's perseverance. It's not so much about winning, but the process and training."

In 1993, he captained the Singapore volleyball team to a bronze medal at the South-east Asia Games.

Ms Tan has been feeding her sons according to "their athletic needs" since they were in primary school. Their meals include steamed fish, lean meat and boiled or stir-fried vegetables.

She cut down on her work commitments because she wants to "support the children academically and in sports".

Although she says she just wants them to enjoy themselves and does not expect much from them, Wei Bin says he feels some pressure: "The demands are high because of the treatment I get from coaches and parents. I've to perform to a certain standard. I want to set a personal goal."

Yu Xiang says: "When I was at school, there was a time for training and studying. I didn't think much about it.

"Now, I miss the time when my parents ferried me around for training and events. I'm thankful that they care for our overall welfare, ensuring that we're able to cope both academically and in sports."

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