I Hello, and welcome to today’s ‘You Yours’. On today’s program we look at children who are trying to be champions in the world of sport, and the pressures they can be under to win. Now I spoke to Allan Baker, the former British Athletics coach, and he had this to say.
AB Well the problem is that you want to find these children at quite a young age, to train them and motivate them as early as “possible. At that age they don’t have social problems, you know they don’t have boyfriends or girlfriends, so they give their sport the whole of their life. But they’re so young that they can lose their childhood, and they’re adults before they’re 16. But of course they’re not adults at all. Physically they can be quite developed, but emotionally they’re still children. Everybody’s looking for the new young star of the future, because there’s a lot of money to be earned.
I Tennis is one of the sports where youngsters can play against their elders with more than a chance of success. In America there are tennis schools which accept children from as young as 9. So from the age of 9 a boy or girl is playing tennis for four or five hours every day, and doing ordinary school work around that. I spoke to the team manager of the English Lawn Tennis Association, Pam de Grouchy.
PG You see, we’ve already seen two 14-year-old American girls, that’s Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger, playing at Wimbledon, and now, both at 18, they are now already showing the pressures on their bodies and their minds, and people are beginning to question whether this is a good thing for children. A 14-year-old just can’t cope with the pressures of Wimbledon, the tournament, the Wimbledon crowds, and the press reporters. Well, I say to my girls, ‘Stay at home, stay at school, do the things that teenagers like doing. If you like swimming, well swim; if you like going to dances, just go!’ And if when they’re older they’d really like to be a professional tennis player, well, they’ll be a little older than the Americans, but they’ll be better people for it, of that I’m perfectly sure.
I Pam de Grouchy thinks that young players shouldn’t be allowed to become professionals until the age of 17 or 18 at least. I asked her what was responsible for the pressures on the young players – was it the money that can be earned, the parents, or perhaps the children themselves?
PG Oh no, it’s the parents, without a shadow of a doubt. They want to push their children. I get letters from parents saying, ‘My little Johnny enjoys playing tennis all day, and he’d like to learn only that and be trained by a professional coach’, and quite frankly I just don’t believe it.
I But what about the youngsters themselves? Robert, a 100-metre and 200-metre runner gave me an idea of his training program, and his own very simple way of avoiding trouble.
R Well I train under a coach for three days a week, and then decide how much running to do. If I’ve trained hard, well then maybe I run five miles, you know, if not so much, then eight miles. Well, of course, I’d like to go to the next Olympics and represent Great Britain, and of course I’d like to win a gold but there are lots of other things I like doing with my life too. I play in a rock group and I’m also a keen photographer. Well, I suppose for me the most important thing is enjoyment. If, if you win, you’re happy, and if you lose, it’s the same. I mean if you start getting upset every time you lose, I think it’s time to stop.
I The sports stars of tomorrow, and good luck to them.