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Published on July 23rd, 2014 | by Shellie Ward



For the last two years, my daughter Haven (9), has been training in two sports swimming and golf.  It just so happens that these particular sports require training all year long.  The rigor of  school, 2 hour swim practices, and an hour of golf 5-6 days a week doesn’t leave much room to be just a kid. By the time the school year is over the load is lightened and the schedule shifts to 4 hours of golf camp, and 2 hours of swimming daily.  We manage to fit in a visit to grandma’s house and fun in the sun in Virginia Beach, and a few weekend trips here and there.

Well we just hit our first real bump in the road….

Haven aged up to the 9-10 year old in the spring and had a tough swim season.  Reality hit. She was used to winning, but as she gets older kids begin dropping off and only the serious are left around the sport. As for golf, she improved and even won 2nd place in the PGA’s Drive Chip and Putt competition (local qualifying) and will be moving on to the second round in Augusta in August.  She loves the water, and loves winning.  I’m trying to convey to a 9 year that although winning is the goal, any sport that she chooses will require practice, dedication, consistency and hard work…..that’s  if she wants it to be her profession or earn a college scholarship.  Haven attends  Drew Charter which is an extraordinary charter school, and the school year begins……July 29! The countdown for back to school has begun and both myself and Haven are wrapping our minds around our schedules for the upcoming year……

Can she keep this up?
Can I keep this up?
Can I afford it?
Is she missing her childhood?

And then the questions that family and friends  have been asking us over the last two years begin to resonate.

That’s too much. Let her be a child. Why are you allowing this? Cut down her practices? You guys can’t come because of a swim meet?

Paul, A very good friend of mine and fellow golf parent, told me about the Netflix original The Short Game.  He said it was about the world’s best  7 and 8 year old golfers and their daily grind.  I definitely wanted to see it, but I wanted to see it with Haven. She kept wanting to watch her favorites Nickelodeon and Disney shows, so I eventually forgot.  Then when Haven said that she wanted to watch something with me, I remembered The Short Game, and so we watched it…….

Something happened, a light turned on.  Those kids live her life! She could identify! Those kids practiced 365/7 and they were her age.  Something happened in me as well.   I could identify with the parents in the film.  Although parents are not actually doing the training, we are there for every second of it and then some.  We  are researching competitions,  encouraging our child athlete, and trying to figure out how to pay for it all! It’s fun to see your child win, but it’s very hard to watch them struggle, or have a bad season.  Honestly, it’s all draining. So of course we as parents burn out, and second guess ourselves.

Last year it was Gabby Douglas’s autobiography that kept us excited.

We find our lives built around future hopes and dreams of our child athlete that may or may not come true. It’s a thin line, but it’s the same story for most athletes, which is why they thank their parents.  The reality is Haven can’t achieve this without my love and support.   I’ve seen child athletes with so much potential but simply are set up with the proper training, coaches, and the lack of commitment from parents. Parenting an athlete for me is not about the end result, but finding their passion and then supporting it. It can’t be about unfulfilled dreams of your own youth, but honing the true talents of your child.

The next two weeks will be time for Haven to have fun, get ready for school, decompress, and then we’ll figure out what’s next. She will be golfing everyday, (getting ready for Augusta), but she will get a break from swimming.

It’s a fine line between allowing your kid to quit, because it may be that they are not winning anymore or they really are losing interest. In my own experience, sometimes I just need to miss doing it whatever I’m burnt out on.  Only time will tell…..

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