One of the most peculiar parents I’ve come across in sports baby’s time is Oblivious Olive – the polar opposite of Negative Nellie – with an impermeable belief, despite all evidence to the contrary in her child’s sporting genius. This sounds as if she could have been a nightmare to the coaches and she wasn’t (well, only very occasionally). And, you know, maybe the absolute self-confidence she and Olive junior – let’s call her Olivia – had in her skills might stand her in good stead in the future. Provide that vital element known as resiliance.
Let me give you some examples. One story I was told about Olive seems to sum her up. Another child in the club was in the same class as her at school. The two girls took part in a swimming competition with the children swimming in groups and the winners in each group competing against each other in the final. Olivia, of course, didn’t feature in this final and Olive was genuinely bewildered as she’d thought her daughter had been one of the best swimmers of the afternoon. She couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been picked for the final.
And this “Olivia is one of the best in the club” attitude ran through everything. The woman was very helpful, always prepared to volunteer. Her attitude to the coaches was exemplary. She took new members under her wing – and they escaped as soon as they realised her cloud cuckoo land take bore no relation to reality. I remember her telling one new member that she never watched training, just sat back and enjoyed the competition and, Olivia coming out at that moment, telling her and the new parent that she was expecting gold or silver from the next comp. Olivia came last. Again.
Olive’s attitude caused problems for Olivia. To be told for 14 years that you are a genius at everything and that it’s just bad luck that you haven’t shown it yet does give an armour of self-esteem. Good or bad? Good to deal with life’s knocks but a dose of realism doesn’t go amiss either. Olivia’s confidence worked against her in so many ways. She was unpopular amongst the other members of the team. She was the lowest ability level in her age group and never medalled individually at a competition. She was, however, convinced that she was superior to them and offered to help coach much higher skilled athletes. She also did herself no favours in that she was so sure of her own abilities that she would not train out of her comfort zone and made poor competition decisions, against the advice of her coaches.
That club folded a couple of years ago. Sports baby went on to join another team but Olivia left the sport altogether and still reminisces over her glittering athletic career.