So, where is your child skiing this season? I am sure your child already has a season pass. My daughter had the plastic skis without metal edges before she could even walk. We’re in Tahoe, and that’s what we do, right?
Every region of the U.S. has a cultural tie to sports. We choose to live in a place that has snowy mountains half of the year, and we play hard in them. Our kids will grow up around friends whose fathers or mothers might be ski legends. It just so happens that our winter sports involve extreme exposure to the elements and going up and down mountains. So, how do we raise children to grow into these kinds of athletes responsibly?
As parents, we guide experiences and decide how we communicate about them. We can shape our child’s understanding and point of view by what we say and how we support, or don’t support, their athletic interests. So, part of the decision should be, “How will I talk to my children about winter sports so they make the right choices along the way?” When your child comes up with a surprising new interest on his own, be positive. And if she wants to do something you don’t agree with, find a way to state your opinion without cutting her off from the sport.
Many ask, “should I put my child in ski school?” Sure! If he wants to try it out, then the answer is yes. Childhood is about finding joy, and children are the best guides to joy. Your young children’s experiences are shaped by the fun they have, the friendships they make, and their connection to the mountains. There are many experts, coaches, and trainers who know how to teach children winter sports in a respectful, professional way.
And if your child really takes to the sport, how early is too early to begin competitive training? This can be a very controversial subject because children will at some point get hurt on the mountain. They can get injuries from pushing themselves too hard, equipment failing, and even sliding off the chair lift. There is risk in every sport, though. And there is a difference between being competitive at 5 years old and at 15 or 30 years old. The part we can control at each age is how we support our child’s journey. There’s a certain release that needs to happen; letting go of wanting everything to work out like it did for us, or how it could or should be for our child.
There’s also the question of knowing which sport to choose for a kid. As a parent, it’s easy to daydream of what your child will grow to be passionate about. It’s not our job to provide the passion for them, but rather to supply them with healthy options. Simple exposure to different sports is enough for a young child to get a taste. We can provide the opportunity by signing them up for what makes sense and go from there. Sometimes they will come up with a sport on their own that will surprise you. And there’s also a difference in being committed to a weekly practice and just playing a fun sport every once in a while. It’s not always about medals and podiums, people!
If a child picks her parent’s favorite sport, that’s great! If not, then parents are the ones that get exposed to something new. Buff Wendt says about her three children, “I now know what it is like to be a dancer, climber, and alpine skier without ever having chosen them. Their passion becomes their path. You gotta let the kid pick their path.” The most important question a parent can ask themselves is, “Does my child enjoy this?” Also, everything is in the moment for children. So, it could be just right now. Go with it.