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Parents in Sport Week: Celebrating the heroes behind badminton's best

Behind every great athlete are the parents who got them to the top – the long car journeys, the endless kit washing, and of course, the bank of mum and dad.

The early years of a young athlete’s career are often ruthless, with hard work needed on the field of play and a lot of big decisions to be made off it.

But there ready to provide the hugs, calm the arguments and mop up the tears are mum and dad, making Parents in Sport Week a true cause for celebration.

Rio 2016 Olympian Lauren Smith first started competing in tournaments around Britain as a young teenager.

Now 26, she’s a European bronze medallist, with Commonwealth Games silver and bronze also to her name from Glasgow 2014 – not to mention the five national titles.

Alongside her every step of the way has been her mum, Nicola, and little brother Luke – who, at eight, is already a keen shuttler himself.

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From traipsing around the country for junior tournaments, to enjoying the sun of the Copacabana beach in Rio, Nicola’s support of Lauren has taken her here, there and everywhere.

But she admits all the sacrifices have been more than worth it – and she’d do it again in a heartbeat.

“There is a lot of sacrifice, it was most weekends away for probably a decade I would say. You kind of put your life on hold for a while,” she said.

“Being in a remote area like Cumbria, it mostly meant a weekend away and then there is the cost of the tournaments and coaching. It is a choice as a parent that you make for your child.

“When you see your child competing, there is a little piece of you out there and there is nothing else quite like that.

“You experience the emotions with them – the absolute joy when they get selected to go to the Olympics to despair when they lose a match they should have won.

“I also think it brings you closer as a family to go through these things together.

“I will never forget watching Lauren play in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I was surrounded by family and friends as it wasn’t far from home and it was such an amazing atmosphere and unforgettable experience.”

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Parents in Sport Week highlights the valuable role parents play, and the positive influence they have, in ensuring young people develop to their full potential and enjoy their time playing sport.

For Nicola, parents play a bigger role than many perhaps realise, but emphasised the importance of letting budding athletes find their own path in life.

“Regrettably I once told Lauren off after a match and it made her cry but I still feel sick when I think about it even though it was over ten years ago,” she said.

“Fortunately she can’t remember it, but it was after that that I realised it was wrong and it didn’t achieve anything.

“Lauren was her own biggest critic and she hated losing so it wasn’t my job to make her feel worse. It was my job to put the loss into context and to give her the belief for her next matches.

“I feel it is how a parent responds to their children playing sport that is the key to whether the child’s experience of sport is a good or a bad one. Children look to their parents for praise and approval.

“As a parent you are there to support and encourage your child and to help them find their own way and their level.”

 

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