It was such a pleasure to meet with the beautiful mum and four-time Olympic diver, Loudy Wiggins nee Tourkey. We discuss her thoughts on raising sporty kids and she provides some unique insight from her own experience as a young elite athlete.
Loudy the Olympian
Loudy began her sporting career as an elite gymnast. However, after a heavy training load of around 30 hours per week and being relocated at the age of 11 to Canberra to train at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) without any family support, Loudy lost her love for gymnastics and quit. Soon after, she moved into diving when a coach recognised her undeniable talent. Loudy competed at her first Olympic Games at the young age of 17. Her amazing diving career spanned four Olympic Games with 2 Olympic bronze medals (Women’s 10m Synchro at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Women’s 10m Individual at 2004 Athens Olympics), four World Championship medals and three Commonwealth Games gold medals.
Loudy the Mum
As mum to Layla (5 years old) and Alexander (2 1/2 years old), Loudy chats with me about her views on parenting young children in sport, with particular insight from her experiences as an ex-elite athlete, along with her husband, ex-AFL player Simon Wiggins.
As a mum to two young children, what are your views on raising sporty kids, early specialisation, and sporting diversification?
Sport is great for kids. Layla and Alexander both take swimming lessons once and week. Layla also started recreational gymnastics last year and is interested in taking up athletics too. Sport provides structure, personal interaction, develops social skills and teaches responsibility.
Both Simon and I specialised in our sports at an early age. I started in gymnastics and moved into diving by choice from age 11 but for Simon, he had to choose between cricket and AFL. In hindsight, he wished he could have played more years of cricket before focusing solely on AFL. I loved diving so have no regrets about spending most of my life in the one sport.
For our kids, I would encourage them to try lots of different sports in their early years with a preference for later specialisation. However, if they find one that they really like, I would be happy for them to stick with it.
Do you have a preference for your children to participate in team sports versus individual sports?
For Simon, he always played team sports and this is an area where we differ. His view is that team sports are much less “self” focused and therefore less self-absorbing. Diving is predominately an individual sport, as is gymnastics. For individual sports, you need to be self-focused in order to be successful.
I would be happy for my kids to try any sport they wished, either individual or team as there are benefits to both. The main focus should be on enjoying their sport.
Do you think Olympians are born to be?
I was 10 when I first said that I wanted to go to the Olympic Games and win a medal for Australia. I think competitiveness is an innate trait you are born with. Some of us are also born with natural talent. For those who are not, hard work and that competitive determination can also see gold medal results.
For young children born with a highly competitive nature, like I have noticed in one of mine, it is important to teach them that winning is not everything, that you can never win at everything, and to nurture their enthusiasm to develop a good balance in life.
How do you feel about your time as a young elite athlete, and what would your main concern be if your children followed in your footsteps?
For me, I loved the amazing opportunities that were given to me as a young elite athlete especially the ability to travel. For Simon, his regret is that he feels his childhood was taken away. The difference for each of us was that diving was a pursuit of choice for me (funded by scholarship programs) whereas for Simon, AFL was his paid career, therefore a necessity as his livelihood at the time.
My main concern for my children in elite sport would be emotional wellbeing, particularly for Layla as a girl. Sport makes you grow up fast!
One of the difficulties many parents face is children wanting to quit sports. You yourself went through phases of wanting to leave diving. If you could see that one of your children was naturally talented in a certain sport but wanted to quit, what would be your response?
I would try and take my own emotion and feelings out of it. I would sit down with them to come up with a plan to follow over the next couple of months before giving up.
I would get them to write down reasons for wanting to quit and also what they used to love about the sport. Sport should not be a chore but something you do because you enjoy it. If you have a natural gift, it is a privilege. Look for alternatives such as decreasing training load, moving to a less competitive level, changing coaching styles. Trying something different to get your child to love their sport again.
Make sure sport is not taken too seriously and incorporate more family time without talking about sport at home. During my career, I felt no pressure from my parents. My mum would say after a competition things like, “Loudy, you were the most beautiful one out there!”
How did you manage study and training during your school years and what are your views on the sport and study balance for your children?
Brought up in an ethnic background (Palestinian) and without necessarily “saying” so, my parents drummed in the importance of education as we grew up. I had to complete Year 11 and 12 over 3 years as I went to my first Olympics when I was in Year 12. I probably didn’t do as well as I would have liked. I eventually found my way and completed a degree in Media and Communications at Sydney University.
I think this was important to my life post diving as I had something to fall back on and could build my post-Olympic goals on. If you are a high achiever in sport you can be a high achiever in other things in life.
So for my kids, they can drive the sporting choices. But as parents, we will be responsible for ensuring that schoolwork is on track also.
How does sport play a part in your family life?
Simon and I love to exercise with the kids. It is a good influence when kids have active parents. I do handstands with the kids and Simon teaches them new skills like how to ride a bike and catch a ball. Providing instructions on how to do something also develops their listening skills. We are enjoying raising sporty kids.
The transition back to “normal life” has been more difficult for some elite athletes than others. How did you find the transition post-Olympics?
Many elite athletes think they need a break and to rest once they have left their sport. But athletes need to be in “hustle” mode. In sport, there is lots of downtime as you have to take care of your body after training. Rest and recovery are very important parts of your routine. But once you stop training at this level, the same level of downtime is not needed.
I came to my own realisation 7 months after Layla was born, that I needed to go back to exercise and that’s when I went back to diving and on to compete at the last Olympics in 2012. Since then I have realised that I need to continue to have clear goals. Elite sport is very self-involved. So after leaving the sport you need to start again with your new individual goals. These aren’t necessarily needed to be talked about – this doesn’t achieve the goal. As I discuss in my free e-book “Health, Fitness & Chasing Dreams,” the focus should be on achieving your goals rather than setting your goals. You must be specific and have a game plan. You need to execute your goals.
• Go with the flow.
• Don’t take it too seriously.
• Never compare your child with other children, especially in front of them. Remember that all children develop at different rates.
• Always be positive.
• Your child will be their own worst critic – you don’t need to add to that.
• Love and support go a long way.
Loudy has since established her own personal fitness business, Loudy Wiggins Fitness. It that caters for Group Fitness, Personal Training, Corporate Group Training, Pre and Post Natal Exercise, Meal Planning, Health Coaching, Sports Performance Mentoring and Motivational Speaking.
You can also sign up for her super comprehensive free e-book “Health, Fitness & Chasing Dreams” which is an amazing 48-page resource of information.
For those who can’t make it to Moonee Ponds to see Loudy in person. Her Mind Body Blitz Program will provide you with 4 weeks of workout plans and instructions, meal plans and recipes. There is also the option for ongoing support and access to weekly update personal training sessions.
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