Raising A Happy Champ
We all want our children to be champions on the bike - but how we do we keep them happy. while grooming them for greatness
How to keep your child grounded and on course to achieve their potential – while still enjoying cycling.
Luke Moir is one of the hottest young racers on SA’s mountain- biking scene. The 14- year- old SACS boy has won the national MTB Cup Series and Champs in his age group three years running. and proved his chops further by winning rounds of both the Swiss and the Italian Cup Series.
In 2017 he raced in the U16 age group of the SA XCO Series, winning all four races and clocking laps faster than some U18 racers. He is touted as one of SA’s up-and- coming MTB stars. But is he in danger of burning out before he can fulfil his obviously massive potential?
According to Dr Jeroen Swart, sports physician and exercise scientist, a key reason for burnout is that children require energy both for growing and for the activities in which they participate. At 14, Luke is in a rapid- growth phase.
At this age, says Swart, too much sport can cause an energy deficit, resulting in tiredness as well as impaired concentration. Enthusiasm for sport can also diminish, leading to burnout and even withdrawal.
Mark Moir, Luke’s father, understands this; and he carefully manages how much time his son spends on his bike. He believes many young riders race and train too much. Mark’s goal is to create a balanced environment for his young champ.
“We’re trying to take pressure off Luke, to help him last longer in the sport,” says Mark, a keen cyclist himself. “Luke wants to win every race, but we limit the number of races he enters, while also adding fun aspects to his riding by changing up the kinds of events he attends.”
According to Mark, training is based on how Luke feels on the day, and isn’t planned too far in advance. “A lot of people are surprised by how little Luke trains. He averages about six hours a week.” The rest is spent on easy and fun rides.
Luke also takes part in athletics, but prefers MTB. “I love singletrack – going as fast as I can downhill, and getting in some jumps,” he says.
He has ambitions to being a pro; but he’s aware of the big deal people are making of him, and plays it down. “I don’t feel like I’m rated highly, though I do know what people are saying. I don’t rub it in. But whenever I’m out there, I want to be first, the best. I want to say I’ve tried my hardest.”
To avoid ‘over- sporting’ your kids, Swart suggests limiting participation to a few hours of training and competition each week. “Emphasise fun, and focus on developing skills and tactics, rather than the result,” he says. Swart also recommends not letting your child specialise in a sport too early; instead, let them sample many different disciplines.
“Follow these rules, and you’ll have a happy, healthy adult – who may even go on to be a world champion.”