Growing a Professional Athlete into Adulthood
This is an exclusive interruption
We are super excited to bring to you our interview below with Diane Henderson, mom of a budding athlete Joshua Allan Ho.
What sport were you good at as a child but no longer play or participate in. What happened?
Did teenage-hood take over and you got distracted? Was it just a passing phase? Was it an injury that stopped you dead in our tracks? Was it taking away from school-work and your parents stepped in and took sport away?
The reality is most of us probably would have never make it as a professional athlete but then again…how would we know if we never made the effort? Even today, pay attention to how we dissuade youngsters who say they want to be professional soccer players and basket ball players. Why do we do that?
The science shows with grit and perseverance, we all stand a chance at improving at anything. And yes some of us are physically better endowed to perform superior at certain sports than others e.g. Michael Phelps has a swimmer’s ideal body and Michael Jordan has a basketball players height etc. but that has not stopped the majority who excel at sports purely from hard work.
Just maybe Diane can shed some light for all of us on just what it takes to grow an athlete in your household. Here’s our interview with her:
Did your son demonstrate natural athletic abilities or did you decide to try and see if he could become a professional athlete?
I signed him up from pre-school into swimming. He naturally participated in all activities as this was our lifestyle. He therefore had it in him. I must stress though that parental guidance is a must for orientation into a healthy lifestyle of activity. Sport for Life! Allow the child to breathe, become himself /herself through sport. There was one particular race he did at 10 years old that made me realize he had the determination to Win!
What were the 3 biggest sacrifices did you have to make as a parent in helping him pursue his goal?
As a parent we make sacrifices a long time before the child even has a goal. Sacrifices form mainly time, picking up and delivering, cost of equipment for sailing and bicycles, extra-curricular cost as well. Meals to enhance strength and sustenance. These are only some of the sacrifices. Being a ROLE MODEL however, is one of the biggest compromises a parent needs to recognize is a sacrifice. We have to correct our inadequacies in order to ensure we do the right things everyday because our children are Watching us!! E.g. time management and daily schedules, if you want them to practice the same (simple thing as reading instead of TV).
What were the 3 biggest sacrifices did he have to make in pursuing this goal?
Joshua did both sailing and triathlon, for sailing it was equipment and long hours and drives to Chaguaramas. When it was triathlon, the bike needed to be upgraded as well as constant change in swim wear and sneakers. Registration fees and attending overseas competition is a must to practice to become competitive and qualify for higher competition. However, balancing school work and maintaining training schedules that spanned 7 days a week was challenging.
Did he ever try to give up ? Did you try to get him back on track or was it up to him?
Yes, at times children like Joshua have slumps, and as a parent we have to continuously motivate them to persevere and see things with hope and positivity. Losing is one of those times. More recently, as he now lives in Sydney, Australia, Joshua has slowed with his training to complete his A levels. I was a little disappointed but fully understand the importance and obligation to do well at this time. However, I have let him know that he should not falter in his weakest disciplines and to get back into it quickly, especially that he has the talent. While I have given my input, he has acquired good reasoning skills and I am sure he will make good decisions.
How has choosing sports impacted his education?
Joshua has always been one of those boys who need a constant push to study. So sometimes one small distraction could mean time wasted and a lot of hard work. However, I believe I have seen the positive impact that good performance outcomes have made on his wanting to also perform well in his school work. During the last days of CXC Examinations, he took the initiative to study well with less persuasion, discipline could be the reason. Or rather a drive to succeed, together with the close bond and respect he and his school mates have for each other.
How has choosing sports impacted the man he is becoming?
It can be seen that Joshua has learnt who he is. I believe that understanding and knowing self is one of the biggest pluses a person can have. His judgement is good and this may have resulted out of many Mother/son conversations about training, racing and of many international and sporting topics of interest.
What qualities and traits do you see as positive and /or negative?
He can look at many examples and analyse with an objective mind. The Rules of sport in general for fairplay provides a platform of good sportsmanship, which transfers into daily life. He has very good reasoning and judgement about people and situations. On the challenging side, he is still somewhat laid back and needs to use his passion to drive him to bigger and better things.
What advice would you give parents wanting their children to become world class athletes?
Before we reach world class athletes, we have to firstly get our little ones learning the fundamental skills for physical literacy as early as possible. This would ensure that they have the basics to continue through the entire spectrum of training, for the fun of it to training for competition. Be patient though and try to understand the details of sport and your child’s body as they mature through puberty. When they arrive at the junior (pre-elite) level and begin to specialize, parents should allow them to continue together with their work demands; perseverance, scheduling and discipline and support should get them through it. Talk to others, affiliate to the sport organisations that guide your child’s discipline. Get to understand the qualification requirements. Oh, also respect if they Don’t!
What has been your son’s biggest professional wins so far?
Joshua has been nominated the First Citizens Junior Sportsman of the Year for TTTF (Triathlon) for three consecutive years 2013, 2014 and 2015. He also recorded the fastest time in the sprint triathlon over the last 10 years (1:03). What is he working towards in the next 3-5 years? We will wait and see!!!
Tell us about yourself…. your strengths, passions etc.
I am a Wellness and Engagement professional in an Alcohol/Food manufacturing company. I love sport and sees the importance of physical activity on life. I ‘volunteer’ my sweat for three (3) sporting groups: TT Intl. Marathon, TT Triathlon Federation, and the TT Olympic Committee, as well as support several others. Strengths: Coping, analysis, intuition, giving advice on sport training; physical ability presently underused, and I believe I am creative. My Passion is to transfer the knowledge to parents the importance of involving their children into sport and physical activity very early as this transforms an individual to appreciate the ethics of hard work, healthy living and many other attributes. There is nothing more influential on a person’s life (to me). I love to be out there doing and competing!
Who do you want your son to become?
I want him to be GREAT! Whether it’s an athlete, a Marine Biologist, Sports Scientist or an Entrepreneur, just to work hard and be great at whatever he decides! Because I know he CAN!