The following provides some guidance to parents on supporting their child's development in clean sport.
Know your child’s ambitions and motives
Knowing the motivation behind your child’s sporting ambition will help you identify when they may hit a vulnerable moment and need your help.
Research shows that athletes who are more extrinsically motivated (for example, by money and fame) are more likely to take huge risks to achieve their sporting dreams. They may be more susceptible to peer pressure and could make the wrong decisions based on a perception of a ‘short cut’ to the top.
Athletes who are more intrinsically motivated (for example, by the love of the sport) are more likely to ‘dig deep’ when things get tough, have a greater resilience to peer pressure and are less likely to make the wrong decisions.
Know the coach
Athletes rely on coaches to guide them through their careers. Apart from you, their coach is the most influential person in their development. When asked, 80 percent of athletes said they would ask their coach for anti-doping advice.
The coach and you should work as a team to support your child be the best athlete they can be.
Things in anti-doping can change quickly. Prohibited substances can be added to the Prohibited List at any time throughout the year. To learn more why don’t you become an Anti-Doping Advisor by taking our online learning programme – you can find out more here.
Learn from the mistakes of others
Sadly, there will always be those who choose to dope and take the wrong turn. Using the lessons learnt from these athletes who have lost everything can remind clean athletes about the importance of staying clean.
Know the periods of risk
Athletes are constantly put into situations where they are outside their comfort zone.
Risk periods occur at various points in an athlete’s development. Risk periods often occur when there is a significant change - for example, in performance level, competing level, training level or due to a period of injury.
Athletes like to be in control of their own sporting development and feel responsible for their success. As they progress up the sporting pathway, they will be the hero one minute – top of their age-group, best in their club or may win their first county competition. At this point they feel great and are living out their success.
As they move up to the next performance level they suddenly meet similar level performers. For some athletes, this knocks their confidence and can make them feel vulnerable. This is a risk period.
Managing times of vulnerability
All athletes have moments of vulnerability; they may be on the verge of selection and see their peers being promoted or selected, they may be injured, they may be under-performing and like us, they will have their moments of doubt.
Periods of under-performing and/or injury can lead to frustration and risk taking. The desire to reach the next stage may overcome the desire to stay clean. It’s at these periods that you will need to really support your child.
Keep an eye on pressure and stress levels. Not only are athletes heavily engaged in sport, they have other things in their life too: education, friendship groups and hobbies. Pressure can lead to irrational decision making. Support your child to cope with pressure both in-and-out of sport. Coping skills are a key determinant of athletic success and staying clean.
Peer groups need to be competitive but supportive. Try and gain a sense of what the culture is in your child’s sport and identify who the key support personnel are. They could be the nutritionist, psychologist, assistant coach, team manager or welfare officer. They are there to help.
Reinforce clean values
As a parent, the biggest influence you can have is on your child’s values and behaviour. This can determine the choices they make and how they cope with frustrating and challenging situations. Sport is full of intrinsic values that should be reinforced throughout an athlete’s career, namely: determination, hard work and commitment. Our 100% me education and prevention programme is concerned with these values and provides education for athletes throughout all stages of their career.