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Children in sport.
I Hello, and welcome to today's 'You & Yours'. On today's program we look
at children who are trying to be champions in the world of sport, and the
pressures they can be under to win. Now I spoke to Allan Baker, the former
British Athletics coach, and he had this to say.
AB Well the problem is that you want to find these children at quite a
young age, to train them and motivate them as early as "possible. At that
age they don't have social problems, you know they don't have boyfriends or
girlfriends, so they give their sport the whole of their life. But they're
so young that they can lose their childhood, and they're adults before
they're 16. But of course they're not adults at all. Physically they can be
quite developed, but emotionally they're still children. Everybody's
looking for the new young star of the future, because there's a lot of
money to be earned.
I Tennis is one of the sports where youngsters can play against their
elders with more than a chance of success. In America there are tennis
schools which accept children from as young as 9. So from the age of 9 a
boy or girl is playing tennis for four or five hours every day, and doing
ordinary school work around that. I spoke to the team manager of the
English Lawn Tennis Association, Pam de Grouchy.
PG You see, we've already seen two 14-year-old American girls, that's Tracy
Austin and Andrea Jaeger, playing at Wimbledon, and now, both at 18, they
are now already showing the pressures on their bodies and their minds, and
people are beginning to question whether this is a good thing for children.
A 14-year-old just can't cope with the pressures of Wimbledon, the
tournament, the Wimbledon crowds, and the press reporters. Well, I say to
my girls, 'Stay at home, stay at school, do the things that teenagers like
doing. If you like swimming, well swim; if you like going to dances, just
go!' And if when they're older they'd really like to be a professional
tennis player, well, they'll be a little older than the Americans, but
they'll be better people for it, of that I'm perfectly sure.
I Pam de Grouchy thinks that young players shouldn't be allowed to become
professionals until the age of 17 or 18 at least. I asked her what was
responsible for the pressures on the young players - was it the money that
can be earned, the parents, or perhaps the children themselves?
PG Oh no, it's the parents, without a shadow of a doubt. They want to push
their children. I get letters from parents saying, 'My little Johnny enjoys
playing tennis all day, and he'd like to learn only that and be trained by
a professional coach', and quite frankly I just don't believe it.
I But what about the youngsters themselves? Robert, a 100-metre and 200-
metre runner gave me an idea of his training program, and his own very
simple way of avoiding trouble.
R Well I train under a coach for three days a week, and then decide how
much running to do. If I've trained hard, well then maybe I run five miles,
you know, if not so much, then eight miles. Well, of course, I'd like to go
to the next Olympics and represent Great Britain, and of course I'd like to
win a gold but there are lots of other things I like doing with my life
too. I play in a rock group and I'm also a keen photographer. Well, I
suppose for me the most important thing is enjoyment. If, if you win,
you're happy, and if you lose, it's the same. I mean if you start getting
upset every time you lose, I think it's time to stop.
I The sports stars of tomorrow, and good luck to them.