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Australia has crazy sports parents, too

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A brief note in the continuing series noting that while the United States appears to have the most crazy sports parents, it has no lock on them. Earlier, I gave you South Korea. Now, I give you Australia.

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From the Sydney Morning Herald, in a story titled “Kids given everything for a leg-up on the field”:

Luke Fuller started playing soccer two years ago and he can already juggle the ball 161 times but that’s nothing compared with the daily juggle of his father, Brett, to keep his eight-year-old son training and playing the game.

Brett Fuller makes the hour-long trip each way from Bondi to Bexley four afternoons a week; the weekend run can much be further.

It may eat a large chunk out of the Fuller family life but Fuller says his son is so committed it’s only right to support his passion.

”As soon as he was to say ‘I’m not enjoying it, I want days off’, I’d question it but while he’s keen and going fairly, well, I’ll back him all the way,” he says.

”He’s enjoying it now but he’s always thinking of the future and what he wants to get out of it – playing for Australia – they see all the stars in A-League and English soccer.”

”You’ve got parents willing to shop their kid around to any club that’s willing to take them – and in some cases willing to pay any price,” says Greg O’Rourke, the president of Australia’s largest soccer community, the Sutherland Shire Football Association.

Some clubs poach junior players from the age of 10, but O’Rourke believes most of the pressure comes from parents who feel their child needs the opportunity to play at the top level.

The dream, fuelled by the tinsel and wrapping of modern celebrity status, is all-consuming. One soccer mum – whose nine-year-old son is well outside the elite ranks – had her boy tell her recently he was ”really, really worried”.

Not about school or bullying or having no friends.

”I’m really worried that I might grow up and just be a normal person when I really want to be a soccer star,” he said.

As much as parents might be living out their own frustrated dreams, children have dreams of their own. It’s a potent mix, with O’Rourke offering a timely anecdote.

”There’s plenty of parents who will happily pay $2500 for private training during the holidays and you ask them why and it’s because they’re going to be the lucky parent of the next Harry Kewell,” he says.

The winner of craziest sports parent in the story is one Mic Parish, who has the combination of dashed dreams of his own youth and egotism that should make him sound familiar to many American sports parents.

Mic Parish reckoned he was spending so much on his two sons – for so little return in terms of the quality of coaching they received – he sold his business, and moved them to England.

”If you’re interested in football, really there is nowhere else to be but over here. Australia is starting but it’s really a football backwater,” he says.

Australian parents have few options but to pay for private academies if they’re serious about success, says Parish, whose sons, Cameron, 17, and Nathan, 15, play with Preston North End.

”You’ve got no choice because the coaching you get is poor. If you’re serious about it and you want your kids to have any chance, you’ve got to do it. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is,” he says.

And Parish is clearly serious about it, believing his own career as a goalkeeper came to an end at 18 because no one was managing his advancement. He’s determined his children will have every chance and, if their English sojourn ends in failure, so be it.

”At least we can say we lived in in another country, made some friends, we had a go but it didn’t work out; we’ll move home and go again.”

It’s probably encouraging to Parish that a similar philosophy worked out for the Bee Gees.

Written by rkcookjr

April 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm