Life Style

“We need to set up a framework without stifling passion”: child-athletes, parents in the second line

Two brothers, two sports fans. Victor, 16, plays rugby and Charles, 13 and a half, plays tennis. They both dream of becoming professional players. Three years ago, they passed a milestone at the same time. “Their coaches have asked us to enroll them in classes with flexible hours so that they can continue their sports training in parallel with their schooling”, tells Christelle de Saint Laumer, their mother.

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Christelle and her husband Thibault had a family discussion. “We wanted to make sure it was their project, she relates. One was in sixth grade, the other in third. They were reminded of the importance of school. ” The words “Sacrifice”, “commitment”, “plan B”, were pronounced. Christelle and Thibault have promised their children to do everything to help them reach their goal.

A precise family organization

Training five times a week, tournaments, matches in France and abroad, often on weekends and during school holidays, physical preparation, homework … The family organization now revolves largely around the very timetable. responsible for Charles and Victor. “We are parent-taxis and parent-on-site”, smiles Christelle. All this in addition to their work: Christelle is a professor of letters, Thibault caterer-fromager.

“High-level sport is as strong a commitment for children as it is for parents”, assures Meriem Salmi, a sports psychologist who supports the greatest: judoka Teddy Riner and racing driver Romain Grosjean. “My job is also to help parents support their child as best as possible. ” A real balancing act: “Without stifling the passion that drives them, we have to set up a framework. When your child is exhausted or injured, you have to be able to say “you are not going to training”. Chances are the child will not be happy, but he will soon know that it is for his own good. “

Back home after a game, it’s often up to parents to find the right words. “We congratulate them in the victories and support them in the defeats”, confides Christelle. ” It’s essential, approves Meriem Salmi. The world of high performance sport is extremely difficult. “

The emotional roller coaster

Last year, Victor had to face a big blow. However captain of his team at the start of the year, he was not selected to continue his training with the Parisian club Stade Français. “It was very difficult emotionally for him and for us too. It’s complicated to see your child unhappy. We helped him use this ordeal to come back stronger ”, his mother reports. The young man bounced back. He passed the selections to enter the Rugby Club of Suresnes, a club which evolves like the French Stadium in the elite French championship under 18 years old.

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Pape Ndiaye, 2016 French judo champion in the under 81 kg category, has also experienced the emotional roller coaster of high-level sport. He asked his parents to enroll him in judo at the age of 4. The little boy trains twice a week in a club ten minutes from his home in the Paris suburbs. He watches videos, orders weight training equipment for his birthdays. “It’s not very good for growth”, reacts his father. But when his son asks him to go with him for a weekend run, he puts on his sneakers. His mother encourages him too but she reminds him “That it would be good if he had a real job”.

Encourage the child without taking ownership of his project

At 13, Pape insisted on going to sports studies. It will be Rouen, 300 kilometers from his home. This represents a financial effort for his parents, with modest incomes. His father takes care of all the administrative part, he intervenes when the director of the establishment is insulting… But he never judges his son’s performance. “My parents never told me ‘you weren’t good’ and that’s probably why I went so far”, he testifies.

→ TESTIMONIAL. Radmila Karabatic: “I was a life coach mom”

They did not take ownership of his project either. Pape Ndiaye remembers a boy his age who was under pressure from his family: “He came from a very popular background and his parents had high hopes in him. They were counting on their son to help them financially. When he won, the whole family stood up, but when he lost it was a tragedy. He ended up stopping judo ”.

Tyrannical parents exist. “There are pathological cases but there are also those who have the impression of doing well, shade Meriem Salmi. Convinced that “we have nothing for nothing”, some parents think that they should push their child as much as possible to help him achieve his dream. But being a good companion can be learned. “

Succeed in sport as well as in school

Anne Templet is an educational advisor at the boarding school of the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (Insep), in Paris. She participated in the creation of the European platform Empatia (1) “On which parents can find all the information they need to help their child succeed in sport as well as in school”.

The one that is sometimes nicknamed the “mother of Insep” accompanies more than a hundred athletes aged 13 to 18 on a daily basis. They sometimes travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers to study here. “We make sure that the links with the family are maintained, she assures. They are also teenagers who will become adults able to understand the world around them and to integrate professionally. For this we need parents. “

Christelle is aware that a lot is asked of her sons: “It takes a great deal of maturity to carry out such a project. So we watch over them and check when they are in bed that nothing is missing in their school and competition bags. “


The Hopes category, a high-level antechamber

The regulatory framework governing high-level sport distinguishes three lists of athletes: high-level athletes (Elite, Reconversion, Senior or Relève categories), athletes from national groups and Hopes.

At the end of 2019, 15,032 athletes were registered on these lists of the ministry responsible for sports. Half of them were part of the Espoirs category, reserved for over 12 years old who have a vocation to become a high level athlete.

The athletics and judo federations have the largest number of listed athletes: more than 1,000 each.

Source: National Institute for Youth and Popular Education (INJEP)


Reading tracks

♦ Happy rugby players: the cadets, by Jean-Michel Cormary (screenplay), Jean-Michel Lafon (illustration), Passiflore, 128 p., € 13.

Jean-Michel Cormary spent many years at the edge of the pitch encouraging his son. It features Leo, a young rugby player now aged 15, caught in the turmoil of adolescence. The author humorously describes the daily life of the parents of young rugby players, sometimes annoyed, sometimes amazed to see their children grow and flourish.

Football love: supporting the child in his passion without losing his sanity,by Dali Sanschagrin and Joël Bats, La Presse, 272 p., € 25.

Matches, training during the week and on weekends, preparation of healthy snacks and calls to the physiotherapist at 10 p.m.: this is the daily life of a soccer-mum. Mother of a young high-level athlete, Dali Sanschagrin does everything she can to support her son in his dream. Is she doing too much or not enough? To find the answers to her questions, she called on Joël Bats, legendary goalkeeper of the France team, coach emeritus and excellent teacher. The former champion places the pleasure of playing at the center of everything. Their discussions, imbued with humor and seriousness, aim to help parents of young football players find the right place.


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