How to raise a sports prodigy – what every parent and carer needs to know…



For many parents, the dream of nurturing a sporting prodigy is strong. But as a parent or mentor, how do you help your child and how do you avoid hampering their chances? What sport is your potential prodigy suited to? How much practice is too much? How much will it cost? What school do they need to go to? Where do you go for advice? All these questions matter, some more than others. In the first of a new Herald series, Dylan Cleaver reveals the must-dos for a life in sport

Parents are, without question, the biggest enablers of a child’s success. Parents are, without question, the biggest impediment to a child’s success. You want to raise a sporting superstar? Some would say the best piece of advice would be to get the hell out of the way and let trained professionals take over, but it is not that simple.

For a start, professional coaches aren’t much interested until your child shows a modicum of talent; then they can’t wait to raid your wallet with promises of “accelerator programmes” and “advanced coaching” clinics.

Those formative years, that’s up to you. The first challenge you’ve got is to recognise when your child has genuine talent.

Richie McCaw gives Christchurch school children a rugby lesson they'll never forget. Photo / Getty Images

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“The tricky question is ‘when’,” says Alex Chiet, talent development manager at Sport New Zealand. “To be honest, trying to identify talent pre-puberty is a crapshoot. You’ll see kids standing out but it means nothing at this stage.

“You might have kids that were born a few months earlier than the others, so are bigger (see the graphic), or there might be kids whose parents had more time to kick the ball around with them when they were younger.”

It’s impossible to look at your progeny and see him or her in the same way others do, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. There’s no harm in being average at sport, there can still be a lifetime of fun and camaraderie in that, so don’t be discouraged. At the same time, don’t push a kid beyond their physical capabilities.

Read a lot more here:


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