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Could Your Child have Olympic potential?

26/07/2016 12:07 | Updated 26 July 2016

It won't be long before all eyes will be on Rio as elite athletes from across the world come together once again to compete for medals, glory and a place in the history books.

For most, lifting a medal from the Olympic podium is the stuff that dreams are made of. But many of the athletes heading for the games started their journey while they were still in school - whether it was a passion for swimming picked up in primary school, competing in an inter-school hockey tournament, or a win in the sports day relay race.

Many schools offer a wide range of activities and after school clubs. By encouraging children to try something new, you can provide them with a safe and supportive environment where their confidence can grow. And by having a go, they'll also learn some of the essential skills they need for life, such as perseverance and how to bounce back if you fail.

You can't help but be mesmerised by the sheer talent and dedication of all those on Team GB who compete at the highest level to be the best, it takes courage and commitment - from friends and family.

Whether or not your child has a shot at joining the next generation of sporting heroes, there is plenty you can do to encourage and support them as they explore the different activities that interest them.

1) Provide plenty of opportunity to shine
Parents have an important role to play in kindling the flame of excellence and giving children an opportunity to shine through their school years.

Find out what activities are on offer at school and encourage your child to try a wide range of sporting and other activities. You might spark their interest in a pursuit they may not have considered before or discover they have a particular flair for track and field, dance or public speaking.

2) Encourage healthy competition
Many of the schools I visit have a focus on creating an environment where healthy competition between pupils is encouraged. For some children, this can be a real motivation to succeed.

Schools often run inter-house competitions - this could be anything from football to a debating or chess club. If a child excels in their chosen activity, the doors will be open to further opportunities to compete against other schools. This can be the first step on the journey towards regional, national and international competition.

This is quite common when it comes to sport. Some schools have tailored programmes that are specifically designed to develop and support the next generation of British Olympians.

3) Find out what support the school offers - on and off the sports field
One school I know has an excellent reputation for inspiring talented young sports women. Norwich High School for Girls runs an elite athlete programme attended by more than 40 of its students, many of whom compete at county or national level in their sport.

There is a focus at the school on supporting fledgling athletes to achieve in their studies, as well as in their chosen sport. As headmistress, Kirsty von Malaisé, explains, "Each of the girls on our elite athlete programme is appointed a mentor who plays their sport. These mentors have a close relationship with our specialist subject teachers and meet with the girls regularly to discuss work/sport balance. We also offer a wide range of support to help the girls stay on track."

There are occasions when the girls on the programme may not be able to physically come in to school as they have to attend a training camp or competitive event. These students can log on to a computer and find the school work they need to complete. The school provides extra support for learning and also help in managing the emotional demands of competing at a high level.

"We can respond very quickly and take appropriate action if a student is struggling to keep up with homework, for example, or they need to put a bit more time into training. This all helps to prevent any clash between their academic and sporting achievement," says Kirsty.

Most schools also have computer systems that allow teachers to monitor students' progress and achievement easily if they are involved in a competitive sport or activity and spot if a child starts to fall behind so they can put support in place quickly to keep them on track with their learning.

4) Go the extra mile
We have all heard about the gruelling training programmes and huge sacrifices that characterise an athlete's career. If your child already participates in competitive sport, you will know how much commitment it takes - from both of you.

It is parental dedication that will sustain a child through the early morning sessions at the swimming pool, tennis court or running track. But the partnership between parents and schools can also provide a strong foundation for helping children to put defeat out of their minds and re-focus on their goals - be they sporting or otherwise.

So, as we look forward to a summer of top sporting action from Brazil, let's also celebrate the work that families and schools have been doing behind the scenes to nurture the unique talents of our children and launch them on the road to success.

Why not encourage your children to watch a real mix of events and see if you can spark their interest in something new ..... Tokyo 2020 anyone?

For more information on SIMS Independent, please visit www.capita-independent.co.uk

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