When it comes to sports, most parents don’t envision their kids racing at high speeds, flying through the air, or scaling walls without a harness. So how to parents of extreme sports kids cope?
Any parent whose children gravitate to daredevil sports hope desperately that nothing will go wrong while trying to grapple with factors that are beyond their control. In the case of motocross, a child could get seriously hurt because another rider accidentally bumps his wheel with their dirt bike on the track. Poor weather conditions can also make things more challenging for many sports—and that’s why you need to be adamant about making sure the kids get the proper training, wear the highest-quality equipment, and know how to control the situation as well as their reaction.
Experts say being informed about the sport may indeed alleviate some of the anxiety in parents. Andrea Nair, psychotherapist and parenting educator says if parents do allow their kids to participate in such risky activities, they must be very clear with their kids that they could get seriously injured.
Mark Stallybrass, President of CMRC racing series, agrees. He has been in the motocross racing industry for almost 40 years and has known a lot of families who put their kids in racing and then quit because they aren’t fully informed about the sport, and they get scared.
“Motocross is an amazing sport that tests physical ability, independence and self-motivation. Many parents are concerned about the dangers, as they should be, but it’s important for them to also realize that it goes much deeper than just competition—it’s a very family-oriented sport that encourages a huge support system for the riders. Our number one goal is for the parents and kids to have fun together.”
The sport also teaches kids to be responsible on the bikes and handle certain high-risk situations, but Stallybrass recommends that families stick to recreational dirt biking when participants are younger than 4 years old because if they decide to get into the racing then they may have a long career ahead of them.
Parkour is a new and emerging activity touted as a holistic training discipline using movement that developed from military style training. Instead of focusing on competition against others, Parkour is a self-disciplinary activity that allows participants to compete against themselves. Each move, jump, lift, push and balance challenges the individual’s focus, discipline, and flexibility under the common theme of movement.
Dan Iaboni, owner of The Monkey Vault Training Centre in Toronto, has taught kids as young as 5 years old. He says most parents are hesitant of Parkour at first because of how it is portrayed on the Internet – with extreme stunts, tricks and high jumps. But when parents sign their kids up for an intro class he encourages them to join in themselves.
“It’s all about making sure parents know what their kids are getting into,” he says. “What most people don’t know is that Parkour is based largely on the elements of play which also makes it an interesting and challenging family activity.”
NAME: Jackie, mom of two
EXTREME KID: Michael, 12, has been BMX racing since he was 8 years old.
THE SCOOP: At first, Jackie was apprehensive about him joining a sport that had potential for many injuries. “You have to be very tough as a mom to watch your kids go around a track and get bumped and bruised. It’s a rough sport,” she says. “But I knew Michael could handle it. The hardest part has been getting mentally prepared for it myself. I was a nervous wreck when he started, and still am, but I’ve gotten used to watching him and now I’m just happy to see him doing something he loves.”
UPSIDE: Builds up strength, determination and physical development in kids.“I feel so proud at races or when he is just out there practicing and learning jumps. If he falls, he gets back up and tries again. His strength and determination
“I feel so proud at races or when he is just out there practicing and learning jumps. If he falls, he gets back up and tries again. His strength and determination amazes me.”
DOWNSIDE: Disappointment and injuries.“I have seen Michael struggle with other kids’ triumphs occasionally when he puts so much into a race, but he has learned to deal with the falls and losses over time. I hate to see him disappointed in himself or frustrated.”
“I have seen Michael struggle with other kids’ triumphs occasionally when he puts so much into a race, but he has learned to deal with the falls and losses over time. I hate to see him disappointed in himself or frustrated.”
Jackie’s worst experience was when her son flipped over his handlebars. “This was definitely not fun to watch, but thankfully he was okay. This fall made him more careful and aware during races. I have seen some kids with broken collarbones and concussions which is really scary.”
AVERAGE COST: $2500/year (includes BMX bike, helmet/gear, track membership, license for racing, practices, race entries, clinics, provincial race weekends)
COMMUNITY: Jackie and her family are members of their local track, which is run by volunteers. They have made a lot of friends in their “BMX family”.“On big race
“On big race weekends you can expect 300-plus riders, lots of music and lots of fun with family BBQ’s. The kids are competitive on the track but when they are not racing, they are best friends. What a great way to spend the summer with the kids.”
TAKEAWAY: The sport is also great for parents to meet new people and get involved. Jackie sells raffle and 50/50 draw tickets at the races to help support the kids. She also marshals at the corners of the track so she can keep a close eye on the action. She loves the fact that the older riders help the younger riders and there are coaches who offer extra practice and clinics.
MORE INFO: BMX Canada
NAME: Craig, father of two
EXTREME KID: Connor, 9, and Brock, 4, both dirt biking since 3 years old.
THE SCOOP: “I grew up in the country and always had 4 wheelers, snowmobiles and friends with dirt bikes, so we would ride all the time. I brought Connor out with me when I started riding again as an adult. He quickly adapted to riding his Honda with me at a local private track. Once he had reached a certain skill level, we put him into racing because he wanted to try it. Our youngest is just learning and loves going out with his big brother; and has made a ton of friends that he meets up with every race weekend.”
UPSIDE: Teaches kids sportsmanship, physical conditioning, mental preparation and independence.“I’ve been involved in sports all of my life,
“I’ve been involved in sports all of my life, however there is no comparison to when you see your child line up at the gate with 39 other racers. It is a feeling of anticipation and hope – anticipation of a great race and hope of him riding safely and finishing the day unscathed. It is also an awesome feeling to see him smile when the race is over knowing that he is happy with what he has accomplished both physically and mentally,” Craig says.
“Motocross is also unique because it instills responsibility in kids when they are old enough to get involved in looking after their bikes, maintenance etc.”
DOWNSIDE: Injuries and cost.Stevenson is a firm believer that the kids have to understand the risks themselves so that they can make calculated decisions in their riding. “As a parent, you try to rationalize the potential for injury, knowing that if you ride and race enough, something will happen someday. But I try to look at it from a different point of view – one where we invest in quality safety equipment, well maintained bikes and proper training so that our boys’ skill level is where it needs to be. We prepare them the best we can.”
Stevenson is a firm believer that the kids have to understand the risks themselves so that they can make calculated decisions in their riding. “As a parent, you try to rationalize the potential for injury, knowing that if you ride and race enough, something will happen someday. But I try to look at it from a different point of view – one where we invest in quality safety equipment, well maintained bikes and proper training so that our boys’ skill level is where it needs to be. We prepare them the best we can.”
AVERAGE COST: $5000-$40,000/year (includes dirt bikes, maintenance fees, travel, club and/or race memberships, entry fees, gear/equipment, etc.).
COMMUNITY: “In the sport of motocross, the first coach is usually a parent of the child, and the pit crew is the rest of the family. You work as a unit to prepare your children for success. You travel to the tracks and sleep in an RV. You also get to know a number of other families that you create great memories with. All the kids race hard, but play harder when it’s all done. This holds true for the parents as well; there are a lot of great friendships that are created at the motocross track.”
TAKEAWAY: “When you live in the city or suburbs, an average race is about 150 km away (2 hours) however there are certain weekends where travel to the U.S. is required as far as 2000 km depending on what level your children are competing. You can race all year long.”
MORE INFO: CMRC Racing
NAME: Sarah, mom of two
EXTREME KID: Andrew, 10, Emma, 7, both have been ski racing since 4 years old.
THE SCOOP: “My husband grew up ski racing so this was a sport that was near and dear to his heart. He had great memories growing up skiing in the race programs and wanted our kids to experience the same.”
UPSIDE: Learning new skill set and positivity.
“The thought of having my kids learn how to ski was a great one. I never did learn as a child and I remember always wishing I had. So to give them that skill set at such an early age I thought was great. I was apprehensive about the competitive racing part of it at first, but I knew how positive my husband’s experience had been with the racing programs so we decided to give it a try.”
DOWNSIDE: Injuries and competitiveness.
“I can’t bubble wrap my kids – as much as I would like to sometimes! I want them to be proud of who they are and what they are capable of doing. I want them to appreciate good sportsmanship and to not only be a good winner but to also be gracious even when they don’t win. That will help define them as people, not whether they win or lose. But how they handle themselves when they win or lose.”
AVERAGE COST: $8000-$10,000/year (includes ski club fees, race entry fees, equipment, instruction).
COMMUNITY: “We have met some great parents who have become great friends. The kids have met a whole other circle of friends they will grow up with and share experiences with. Yes there are parents and kids who are more competitive than others but most share the same outlook. As long as the kids are having fun that is what it is all about.”
TAKEAWAY: Race day can be an emotional roller coaster. “At the beginning of the race I just want to see them complete it. Of course I am always proud of them regardless of how they place because for me it isn’t about that. The problem is when they are disappointed with themselves and are upset that they didn’t do as well as they had hoped. Life lessons kick in and the pep talks take over.”
MORE INFO: Alpine Canada
NAME: Kyp, father of one
EXTREME KID: Clay, 12, has been going to a Parkour gym with his friends since he was 10 years old.
The Scoop: Clay first heard about Parkour on the Internet and his dad researched whether there were any facilities in Toronto. Kyp now takes his son to an hour-long class each week, and before and after the class, usually for an hour, he stays and plays with his friends.
UPSIDE: Physical fitness, sense of accomplishment and creativity.
“It’s very good for kids to do something that they feel a sense of accomplishment. Parkour is also creative in that it focuses on the need for kids to think about the best possible way to get from one place to another – they have to make split-second choices about how to land and where to move next, so it’s very good for his thought patterns, his instincts and reflexes.”
“Many of the feats Clay performs are dangerous, but there is potential for injury in any sport. The one thing I find comforting is that he has been taught to not begin actions without knowing how to complete them, without knowing exactly how they’re going to land, or without knowing completely that they can do it. It’s not a reckless sport, but one of forethought and strategy.”
AVERAGE COST: $500/year (annual membership) $15 (drop-in classes).
COMMUNITY: “I believe the thrill and challenge of the kids participating in this new, largely unknown sport binds them together and is exciting for them. Parkour encourages creative, strategic thinking, pride in accomplishment, physical fitness and camaraderie. For the most part, the parents I have met seem supportive and engaged, some more than others.”
TAKEAWAY: “It’s important to have good training, especially when this activity to so new and not as mainstream as the other action sports. The instructors have been very helpful in giving Clay training by working in small groups so that each child gets the encouragement and attention he needs.”
MORE INFO: The Monkey Vault