Dec 4, 2020

Sports Parents what does your voice sound like to your child?

About Iain

Iain Shippey founded Thincsport in an endeavor to partner with players, coaches, and parents – and consults with individual players, business leaders, coaches, schools, clubs and universities to help them seize the mental edge and develop into transformative leaders. He runs courses in Leadership and Human Performance, which incorporates the fundamental building blocks of Applied Sports Psychology. He co-authored a next-gen course with Dr. Melissa Adendorff, who is an academic, elite ballerina and performance coach. In a very exciting development, Iain is forming a new company, with Paul Mills the CEO of HFPA ( they are going to be offering new qualifications in the fields of Wellness and Human Performance Coaching in partnership with leading Performance Coaches in the USA and NZ. Among the team are Kamerion Wimbley, former NFL star, and  Ron Miller who worked at FSU, Florida State University as a strength and conditioning coach with multiple elite athletes. John Quinn the Crusaders Mental Coach also adds significant value to the team. Iain, comes to life at the intersection of professional sport, coach mentorship, and youth development – describing this as the juncture in which sport facilitates infinite possibility with Millennials and Generation Z. He is part of the SA Men’s Hockey support team, serving under the leadership of coach, Garreth Ewing as a Leadership and Culture coach.

Dear Parents

I write to you as a fellow parent, coach, and someone who works with athletes and coaches at an international level but also have an irresistible magnetic pull to Generation Z.  I adore them!!! I feel at home on the side of the astro watching our Olympic hockey squad train but love hanging with teens over a milkshake, talking about life and sport.

Lisa and I have had the privilege of preparing our children Caitlin and Trent to engage our world with humility, zest and grit. They are now twenty-three and twenty years old and we couldn’t be prouder of the amazing young adults they are.

Having said that, we have often stumbled and stuffed up as parents and still need to keep getting back into the saddle of life-long parenting, having hopefully learnt some valuable lessons and made the necessary adjustment in approach to the sacred role of parenting two amazing humans who have been entrusted to our care.

Sport is loaded with passion, hopes and dreams. It takes the skill of a neuro surgeon to untangle all the threads that make up this pot of passion:

  • a child’s appetite for a sport and hunger to succeed
  • or the emotional jungle they need to hack through, as they don’t like sport or pressurised, competitive sport but suspect that their parents love is conditional on their performance on the field
  • a parent’s ambitions and dreams, sometimes the subtle, hard to detect agenda of living vicariously through our child
  • a longing for peer recognition amongst kids
  • bragging rights for dad when he steps into the office on Monday morning
  • a coach’s zeal to be the top team in town
  • The expectations of supporters
  • The social media zoo…..

As sports lovers we invest in equipment, supplements, extra lessons. We even enroll our kids at schools we can’t afford, pay for sports tours, cough up monthly for DSTV (cable TV) so we can see our heroes in action and take trips to Ellis Park, Newlands and Soccer City BUT do we invest time into thinking of how we can be a better sports parent?

A parent’s voice is often the loudest voice in a child’s head when they head into a sports competition.

What does your voice sound like to your child?

My colleagues and I have a desire to partner with parents and implore you to appropriately  invest time into thinking about your role as a sports parent. I have the immense privilege of working alongside colleagues who share this passion. Adele and Mari share some of their insights with me in this blog. Before, I bring their voices into the room here are two thoughts from my experience:

Enjoy sport and make memories with your kids

Our daughter Caitlin won hockey awards as a junior but found greater fit and  purpose in life being a maths teacher than being a sports woman. We do however share a love for rugby and have watched tons of games at Ellis Park and on the box together. I had the immense privilege of working with the Springbok rugby team for over a decade. From a young age, Caitlin was at my side during many training sessions and witnessed the ground trembling scrum session from 5 metres away, where eight players, collectively weighing over a ton coordinate their efforts as  they seek to perfect their trade and gain ascendancy in one of the key components of a rugby contest. She was very skillful in befriending players and often came away from a session with a handful of autographs while I was lost in conversation with the players. Watching rugby especially the Lions and Springboks is something we love to do together and triggers a tons of memories we have built over the years.

Celebrate your child’s uniqueness

I played a gazillion hours of cricket as a kid. My parents supported me through the entire journey, they were in the back ground, never overstepping the mark as sports parents. They respected coach, parent boundaries but were pillars I could lean on. I was honoured to be first team cricket captain at school and my mum spent hours in the kitchen making nourishing lunches for our Saturday games. Dad was always on the side of the field, if I looked out the corner of my I could see him, I felt his reassuring presence. He was there when the runs flowed and when they dried up. When I was lacking confidence, he threw hundreds of balls to me as I desperately tried to regain my form. They helped me buy the air ticket to play a month of cricket in England as a sixteen year old but also ensured I did my part. I had to raise my spending money, so I saved all my wages from my newspaper round for a year.

I fully expected that, our son Trent would be a cricketer. In my zeal to nurture him as a cricketer, I became a mini-league coach at the local club. But Trent wasn’t a ball sports person but my word, could he swim. I spent hundreds of hours watching him swim, he swam all four strokes and watching him swim fly made my soul soar. I had to untangle my heart and withdraw any expectations projected on him to be a ball sports guys. He no longer swims and that is cool. I now enjoy a ring side seat as he pursues his desire to be a  graphic artist.

I cherish working with Adele Madsen and Mari du Preez. Adele runs a phenomenal Hockey Academy and her sons have played hockey and cricket at the highest levels. Mari has her national colours for Full Contact Martial Arts and coaches some of SA’s greatest emerging talent. I asked then to jot down a thought for you as parents. See bios below

They don’t need to be perfect they just need you. – Adele

Our children think that we expect them to be perfect all the time but all they really want is for parents to be there encouraging and positively supporting them no matter what they go through or experience.

“The hardest part about being a parent is watching a child go through something really tough and not being able to fix it for them”. Children learn life skills by having to work things out themselves in both the good and the bad that happens to them. This is the heart of mental toughness.

Our support should not turn into pressure. – Mari

One thing a coach and a parent have in common, is that we only want the best for our players and/or kids. We want them to achieve and reach far beyond their dreams and expectations! So we make sure we are there, next to the field, watching them train and compete. That’s how we show our support! Seeing a parent next to the field is necessary for some kids to kick their performance into gear, but for many, seeing or hearing their parent next to the field, can cause unintentional pressure to perform. This pressure can lead to them losing focus as they worry what you think or what you will say, as they drop a ball, miss a goal or fail to score with a kick. Knowing a parent is there and knowing beyond all doubt, that their parent is proud of them irrespective of the outcome of the game or match, is what helps to instill confidence in kids and improve their performance.

We hope that article has shared some valuable thoughts with you pertaining to sports parenting.

We will be hosting two sessions on Zoom for Sports Parents on two consecutive Sundays the 29th of Nov and the 6th of December.
Email – to register.

Your partners on the journey
Adele, Mari and Iain


Adele Madsen
Owner of Madsen Hockey Academy for 27 years, mentor of coaches and hockey players. Provincial and National B hockey player, married to Paddy, former SA Indoor and Outdoor Player, with 3 boys, 2 of whom played SA Men’s Hockey and one currently representing Derbyshire County Cricket Team in the UK. SA Women’s Convenor of selectors for many years leading up to the Beijing Olympics.

Mari du Preez
Currently a Sandan (3rd Dan) practicing Shotokan karate. The Dojo Head (and Instructor) of Kyalami Shotokan Karate in Midrand, since Jan 2017. National Coach for the Shotokan-ZA Organisation since 2017. Selected to be part of the South African National team who competed at the World Martial Arts World Championships 2019 in Blackpool, England. Placed 2nd in my division. Also included in this team were 5 of my students who competed in Scotland as part of my SZA National Team. Between them they took 9 medals, including the Gold, Silver & Bronze, in the 15-17 year old Forms division, of which I was very proud!

Shana Devitt I Editor

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