Watching the Olympics I wondered if champions are born or made? I would have to say that the answer is mostly a little bit of both, sometimes though it happens through sheer grit and determination to strive to be the very best in whatever your area of talent is. There seems to be a lot of second generation athletes, not always doing the same sport as mum or dad, but there is some degree of pedigree there. Here is a piece written by an Australian Swimmer Melanie Wright telling her story of how she got there.
And it would seem after I watched a piece about Ben Harradine who represents Australia in discus that the making of a champion is not for the feint hearted or the poor. Ben is well known for his incredibly out there outfits that he wears in competition and the fact that as he heads out to compete he and his dad flip each other the bird! It is a sign of affection between the incredibly close pairing. His father is his coach and gave up his career as a teacher to get Ben to the Olympics. For me the one thing that his father said in the piece was that to get Ben to his first Olympics which was Beijing 2008 that it had cost conservatively $500,000! Yup you read that right $500,000!
Benn wearing one of his bright outfits! Image Credit: abc.net.au
This was money that had been spent on travel, medical expenses, physio, food, you name it. That figure has honestly blown me away. I think I understood that there was a dedication to your child’s chosen talent that is more than the average parent. I suspect when I really think about it I just assumed that there was far more financial support. Perhaps there is once you get there it is the lead up to getting there.
I think the same could be said about dance parents I would honestly hate to put a figure on the cost of raising a child that has an exceptional talent in any area. Of course there are the lessons – this is something that not just any parent could quit their job and take up teaching their child to take them as far as possible. The costumes, the shoes, the leotards, the holidays that all have to be taken around eisteddfods, the eisteddfod fees, the travel to said eisteddfods and auditions and of course the medical expenses around managing injury, dieticians, the list continues. That of course doesn’t factor in that there is petrol to and from everywhere, the constant waiting for classes to start or finish, trying to organise other family members around the “talent” in the family all the while ensuring you keep them grounded as much as you can.
Or really any parent of a child with any type of exceptional talent. They are whole family achievements really. Of course as a parent I am sure that the feeling of watching your child on the dais or on stage performing wipes away the memory of the financial expense. Sometimes it is also important to be realistic, talent, passion and determination will only ever get you so far. Sometimes the next level is just not possible for so many reasons. The sacrifices that families make for their children or siblings who have exceptional talent in any area should never be underestimated.
I have heard stories about sportsmen who have played cricket with Australian players all the way along and through into representatives including captaining sides over other players (who then went onto play for Australia!) but they simply couldn’t take that next step. That next step was going to require even more money, even more commitment and sacrifice by the family who have already sacrificed so much that they simply can’t sacrifice anymore. Sometimes it isn’t always the best player, swimmer, runner that reaches the pinnacle they are the ones who can continue to sacrifice their all to ensure they have every single opportunity to make it. Sometimes in dancing it can be even more brutal you can be the most talented dancer in the room but your hair is not right or your legs are too long or short. So much of making it through an audition in dance has very little to do with your talent but first your look and then your talent. Only one of those can you really continue to work on!
My cousins played first grade NRL luckily for them there were all boys in the family, they were close in ages so often played together. Their much older brother coached at the club which meant they could all go together.
Equally we shouldn’t ever underestimate that us “ordinary parents” make huge financial contributions and sacrifices for our kids too. I wrote about that years ago here.Whenever major events like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games roll around it makes me take a breath and think of all the families. I think very quietly I also sigh a little sigh of relief that really my kids are beautiful, loving wonderful beings but I am pretty sure they will simply be those that help to make the others look great! The families all deserve medals and awards too in my eyes.