Always respect everything that parents do to make sporting dreams a possibility

In the spotlight: Milly Clark had a strong message to send when interviewed by sports editor Rob Shaw at The Examiner's Junior Sports Awards at Country Club Tasmania. Picture: Scott Gelston.
In the spotlight: Milly Clark had a strong message to send when interviewed by sports editor Rob Shaw at The Examiner's Junior Sports Awards at Country Club Tasmania. Picture: Scott Gelston.

Clark's key message was to always respect everything that parents do to make sporting dreams a possibility. Of course how that parental support is delivered will depend much on personal circumstances and individual environments. But that personal sacrifice can be crucial.

Listening to the myriad excellent messages from Launceston's international marathon star Milly Clark at The Examiner's Junior Sports Awards, her emphasis on one really struck home - at least to me.

She talked of many things that can help a young girl or boy along the performance pathway from grassroots competitions to development programs to the possibility even of a national age team and beyond.

She made it very clear that in most sports there is every possibility to do all of that from here in Tasmania.

But she continually emphasised that this progression can be made very much easier by the contribution that parents make.

Clark's key message was to always respect everything that parents do to make sporting dreams a possibility.

And equally so - never forget it.

Of course how that parental support is delivered will depend much on personal circumstances and individual environments.

But that personal sacrifice can be crucial.

To be clear the concept should not be too narrowly defined - it includes grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles and very often the support crew of a team mate or training partner taking their turn about.

The roles that are played by coaches, sporting bodies and so on are of course equally critical but the younger the athlete is the chances of these opportunities even being accessible depends very much on the willingness and commitment of parents to make them so.

Thereafter programs like Ticket to Play and Local Sporting Champions play their role to try to make sure that all rising talent regardless of family circumstances can have access to the next steps on the pathway.

The cost both in terms of time and dollars of all of this is constantly rising - and until commitment is made in Tasmania to restoring adequate physical education and activity programs in our school system this will only continue.

PERFORMANCE PATHWAY: There is every possibility to do all of that from here in Tasmania. Photo: Australian under 16 basketball championships, Tasmania v Queensland.

PERFORMANCE PATHWAY: There is every possibility to do all of that from here in Tasmania. Photo: Australian under 16 basketball championships, Tasmania v Queensland.

Too much now is left to state sporting organisations, their constituent clubs and individual coach to provide the delivery opportunity. Each of them faces constantly-increasing outlays with equally constantly-diminishing funding.

Pour one's eyes over the key performance indicators imposed by governments on sporting bodies in return for the small sums provided to do the ever-increasing workload of tasks abandoned by health and education departments - and the reality is stark.

If even just the reporting job ends up being done properly a significant proportion of the grants can be eaten up by the costs of imposed compliance. It's a nonsense.

State sporting bodies and private coaches have had to take up an enormous slack. It used to be in advanced skill acquisition now it's about elementary stuff because our primary school kids are not receiving the basics in running, jumping, throwing, ball skills and gymnastics.

It's scary watching many kids trying to throw a ball.

It's even more challenging to get more than a handful to execute a forward roll - in other words a somersault.

And as for climbing a rope - even if a kid is prepared to have a go they will probably be warned-off such a dangerous thought on occupational health and safety grounds.

Which brings the whole story back to parents and others in a child's inner sanctum. It's they who have to first make it possible - either by themselves or seeking out an avenue which can deliver.

One of the best things parents of children of sporting potential should do is to seek a range of views on what might be possible or on which directions to take. Too many messages out there are single focussed - with a single aim or possibility in mind.

These are essentially self-serving - exclusively and selfishly quarantining all the talent - playing with it and then spitting out all but the very best.

For most early and mid-teens sport should not be about specialisation. For the majority it eventually means walking away.

That's in no-one's interest - apart from the ruthless talent scout or academy manager.

And to be clear, whilst Clark was addressing an audience of talented kids and their support teams, her wisdom applies just the same to children who just want to have a go - or who would be prepared to do so if they just knew the opportunity was there.

This story Sport, success, family and more: life lessons from Milly Clark first appeared on The Examiner.