I Hope My Son Never Wants to Be an Olympian

by Kevin on February 21, 2014

No good can come from this post, but I’m going to write it regardless.

I really, really, really hope my son never wants to be an Olympian. Yes, I want him to be happy and to become everything he was meant to become.

I just hope “Olympian” is not what he is supposed to come. Sure the fanfare, the camaraderie, the representing your country, the competition… they all sound fantastic. But let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Why I Want My Son to Avoid the Olympics

Here are four reasons I’d never want him to pursue an Olympic career.

Financial Stretch

Becoming an elite athlete of any kind requires a huge financial outlay starting at a very early age. Some girls get started with gymnastics at age three. Three! They require coaches, memberships, travel, and so on for more than a decade in an attempt at becoming an Olympian.

If you’re really good you have to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado to practice at the US Olympic Training Facility. That’s more dollars spent traveling or relocating to the area.

All of that financial risk is well and good if there is a huge chance at a financial reward at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately very few Olympic athletes see that financial windfall. For every Michael Phelps there are tens or hundreds of other mostly no-name athletes that end up having to take second jobs in order to provide for themselves while attempting to be an Olympian.

Family Stretch

How would you like to send Dad to Colorado Springs so Junior can become an Olympian, but leave Mom and the rest of the family at home earning all of the income to keep the family going?

Family stretch doesn’t begin to describe the amount of turmoil that families can be thrown in. Moving cities. Traveling back and forth. All for a hope of a gold medal or two followed by sponsorship windfalls.

Nerves Stretch

This is just me, but I don’t know how parents of Olympic athletes can not go crazy with worry and anxiety during the games. Muffing a punt in college football is heartbreaking, but there will be other punts in other games. Slipping and falling during your ice skating routine with no guarantee of making it to a second Olympics? Brutal for both the competitor and their anxious family. No thanks.

Long-Term Career Stretch

What happens when you turn 22, 26, 30, or whatever the defining “too old to compete” age for your specific sport is? Much like other sports you need to have a backup plan, an education, a degree… some sort of secondary path to go to when your sports career dwindles. NFL, NBA, and MLB stars can do broadcasting if they want. But Olympians? What, you’re going to work every four years doing NBC’s broadcast?

On top of that the prime Olympic age is right around your college years. How many Olympians skip out on college in order to focus on their physical training, only to find themselves without a degree when they lose their ability to compete on their country’s team?

Final Thoughts

It seems to me like many Olympic athletes end up being Olympic broadcasters or coaches training the next generation of athletes. As with other career aspirations that surround sports, putting all of your chips (and your family’s chips, too) on the Olympics seems like a huge risk. It might pay off. Your kid could be the next Michael Phelps. Then again you could spend your life savings pursuing this dream only to fall flat when it counts most.

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Crystal February 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

We are acquaintances/family friends with Jonathan Horton (gymnastics Olympian). I wouldn’t want it for my kid too, but sometimes you might not have much of a choice. Jonathan was hanging from garage doors and doing stunts at home at the age of 3. Now he’s an Olympic silver and bronze medalist, married, works as a coach, and has just had his first baby. Overall, it was a hard path, but he was born for it. I also hope my kid isn’t…

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