Rio 2016 Olympics - Home at Last
So I've finally recovered from a fairly unpleasant night flight back from Rio. My middle seat and my grumbly pro-lapsed L4/L5 disc definitely did not agree! Jess Ennis-Hill and Sir Bradley Wiggins were on our flight which made up for things a little bit.
I just have a few last insights for sporting parents before I sign off on my Rio adventure. As well as a few of our sporting greats, the parents of Adam Peaty were also on our flight. It was very interesting to chat to them about their Olympic experience and compare it with our own.
They were obviously overjoyed at Adam's performance. He won the 100m breaststroke breaking the world record twice, once in qualifying and again in the final. He was also part of the silver medal winning 4 x 100m medley relay, swimming a sub 57s time in his leg, faster than his individual gold medal time and making Phelps and the USA team sit up and take notice. Amazing achievements and all at the age of 21. For his parents, watching him achieve his dream was truly rewarding. As a parent, swimming really is a high commitment event. Young athletes have to get to the pool at an ungodly hour before school and then on to school, five days a week. Watching all this hard graft come good in their son must have been wonderful payback.
However, they also said that the experience had been hard for them. Swimming does not have a supporters group, so they were operating very much on their own. They knew that he was going fast, and they expected him to win a medal, but they had been given no media training or advice and found the onslaught of the media overwhelming. This coupled with the lack of a cohesive supporters group made the whole experience very taxing.
In rowing, we have a GB Rowing Supporters group, which as well as bringing all the parents together also organises and books joint travel packages to World Championships and Olympics. For the Rio Olympics, a parent had travelled out to Rio in 2015 with a travel company rep to do a recce and organise the package with suitable accommodation. At events, we have constant access to a member of the support staff at GB Rowing, which keeps parents and supporters in the loop about news and any alterations in arrangements and schedules. The group produces venue guides to the major international venues around the world and also has designated supporters kit so the parents can all recognise each other at events. Parents have to pay to join, but it is a very small amount, and I would highly recommend any parents who have athletes involved in international rowing to join.
If your child is not involved in rowing, do check with your national governing body whether such an organisation exists and join up. If it doesn't exist, why not set one up? The British Rowing group is totally run by volunteer parents with a contact at GB rowing offering support. If parents feel supported and informed, and operate as one big group at events, it is better for everyone – parents, athletes, coaches and governing body.