Caryn Springate, a South African hockey player, an Olympic participant and coach, tells us her story.

I write this piece, drawing from my childhood experiences, as one who was able to compete in all sports during my school years, as a sportswoman achieving at National and International level, and now as a mother and specialized hockey coach.  My dream was to play hockey for South Africa, and go to the Olympic Games.  I achieved this in 2000 when I represented South Africa at the Sydney Olympic Games.

My parents played a huge role in my sporting career.  They continuously provided love, support and acceptance. They took me to practices, matches, tournaments and extra sessions.  They always made a plan, arrived on time and provided me with the necessary “tools” to do my job and “fuel” to keep me going!  Many life lessons are learnt from being involved in sport.  We need to encourage our children to play – to have FUN!   Critical life values such as honesty, integrity, humility, courage, respect and discipline are learnt by children who participate in sport.

I have had great mentors/coaches who have walked with me through my sporting career.  They have inspired me and provided the knowledge to achieve at the highest level.  As parents, we need to allow coaches to do their jobs and support them, even if we do not always agree with their decisions.  Always, focus on the positives, and encourage your children.  By your example, your child will learn to respect their coaches and umpires, which will result in better individual and team performance.

As a coach I encourage and applaud my children for asking questions.  Hockey players are team players who need to think creatively and independently; they need to accept accountability for decisions that they made, and they need to be responsible for every aspect of their training and performance. Winning is great and children should compete with this end in sight.  Reward them, praise them and keep the love for the game alive!

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