THE THOUGHT PROCESS...
205 Countries, 42 Sport Disciplines, 306 Events in 37 Venues, over 17 days; Welcome to the Rio Olympics 2016.
But, before we plug in to watch this year’s great events, the adrenaline, drive and drama; before the medals arrive and the tears are shed, let’s pause for a moment to look at the unseen years of training, practice and discipline that these athletes have undertaken since childhood.
Two days ago the world renowned Usain Bolt posted a photo of himself with a group of children from dangerous communities in Rio on his Instagram page. He’d invited them to visit his training ground because, as he said, “they are our future”, and he was himself, “very happy” for having “got to meet them”
And it got me thinking…
Where do the pin-up athletes we see spread across our front pages come from?
What were their childhood’s like and do they have any advice for us, as we bring up our own little ones, about encouraging them to pursue their dreams?
Who better to look at than the man Michael Johnson claimed to be “the most naturally gifted athlete that I’ve ever seen”; a man who holds a “super human secret” to success…
USAIN (LIGHTENING) BOLT
Born in Jamaica on August 21, 1986.
4 gold medals, 2 silver, and 3 world records.
At 9.5lb, Usain Bolt made an impression the moment he entered the world. He was described as a “hyperactive” baby, but otherwise he enjoyed a very simple, “unrestricted” childhood in the safe and rural village of Sherwood Content, in Jamaica, running barefoot down the streets and playing in the rain.
So, how did he get from this seemingly small beginning to the main stage?
1. THE GIFT
As a child, Usain Bolt’s first sporting love was cricket and he was renowned as a particularly good bowler. He and his friends used to hit coconuts and lemons down their road for batting practise and he soon joined local teams in the hope of one day becoming a professional. He was not only good at it, but enjoyed it. His lean, tall physic and graceful motion leant itself to all sports and he naturally found himself excelling in them.
2. THE RECOGNITION
But it was while he was participating in other sports that Usain Bolt's gift of running was acutely noted by his P.E. teacher and father, and he was redirected towards track events at school. His gift became increasingly recognised and it wasn’t long before he was given the chance to compete in national and international competitions.
3. A GOOD ENVIRONMENT FOR GROWTH
Usain Bolt really broke into the limelight in his second major competition, in Kingston, Jamaica, where he won gold in the 200m race at just 15 years old.
Coming from an island who has a population of only 3,000,000, yet the record of the 7 fastest 100m sprinters in history, Jamaica upholds and reveres track athletes more than those of any other sport. The national culture is built around and channelled towards speed. Famous athletes have huge statues raised in squares and the bill boards are smothered with images of winners clad in yellow, black and green crossing the finish line. They are proud of their heritage and, from that, have inherited themselves the belief that as a nation, they fly rather than run.
With such a spirit behind him, Usain Bolt's victory in Kingston was a turning point in his career. He heard, for the first time, 30,000 new fans calling his name (with the addition of “lightning” in the middle!) and he gave his first salute back to the crowd. The country was hungry for a new victor and Usain Bolt was now perfectly lined up to step into that fertile ground.
SO WHAT ABOUT OUR CHILDREN?
Usain Bolt is a very driven individual. His “main goal is to become a legend”. He wants to “keep winning year after year” by “working hard and keep(ing) focused”. But that is up to him.
The role of the parent in such a person’s life is far more subtle and interwoven than that… The night before Usain Bolt’s race in Kingston, he cried. He was afraid that he might not win. He was feeling the pressure of that home crowd weighing down on him. His mother’s response? - No matter what you do, no matter what happens, we are proud of you. There are some bedrocks of parenthood that we can lay down for our children, to help them follow their dreams, to not be afraid to try, and not be afraid to fail, to know we are there for them whatever; to encourage and recognise their gifts and to create the best environment for them to excel.
Whether your child is a gifted painter, writer, scientist, climber, swimmer, carer, doctor, inventor, cleaner, runner or anything and everything in between, you can help them to grow and thrive to be all that they can be!
Here are some questions to help us reflect on how Usain Bolt’s reasons for success can be implemented in our own parenting.
- What does your child excel in?
- What are they good at and passionate about?
- How can you best support them in this?
- What environment would help them to thrive and grow their gift?
- How can you encourage them in their gifts today?
Over and out for now, enjoy the Olympics, I know I will!