Guest blogger, Ellen Davis Meehan, defends australia’s snowboarding parents and calls for an end to public punch ups in favour of transparency.
Parentism. Not a word that has been around long enough to be in the Oxford Dictionary, but defined by the Urban Dictionary as discriminating against parents by devaluing someone’s contribution purely because they are a parent.
It is something those with children in junior snowboarding in Australia know well. Recent comments in the media about “a tennis parent problem” and “meddlesome parents” have wounded a lot of hard working, intelligent and engaged parents who make an enormous contribution to the development of snowboarding in Australia.
The voluntary input of parents support is not unique to Australian snowboarding. Anyone with a child in sport knows what it takes. But almost all snowboarding development in Australia is funded by parents.
Why? Because there are no snowboard development programs that are sponsored by the national body or government. Three snowboard athletes (Steph Magiros, Alex Fitch and Michaela Davis-Meehan) receive some training support from NSWIS but sit outside any programs.
Over 9 years ago parents of snowboarding athletes in Australia with the support of Perisher Resort and coaching staff established the Australian Junior Series (AJS) – the premier junior competition for freestyle snowboarders in Australia.
Mick Johnstone, father of Olympian Nate Johnstone was one of the original members of the AJS Committee. Darren Hughes, father of Olympian Jarryd Hughes, still works for that event and on other snowboarding development undertaken by the AJS Committee.
The AJS Committee was successful in getting TTR rankings (World Snowboard Tour event points) for the AJS and insisting that Ski and Snowboard Australia (SSA) joined the World Snowboard Federation. The Committee also brought the World Rookie Fest to Australia and has attracted the top international Junior riders to come and spend 2 weeks in Australia for the event.
In 2013 the current Slopestyle Gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg (US) came to the event with his sister and spent time talking to the young Aussie riders and encouraging them on their journeys.
All of this has been set up by parents.
Darren Hughes has provided significant cross training opportunities at his Monster Skate Park not only for his own son but for Olympian Russ Henshaw and other development riders, and as support programs for the NSW Institute of Sport. Darren also bought the Bag Jump to Australia and the Cardrona training camp where it was utilised by nearly all our elite athletes.
Harry Magiros, father of Olympian Steph Magiros, is the unofficial photographer to the parent run Facebook site “Extreme Parenting” and for the many parents who can’t afford to travel to support their children, has done his best to promote all our riders. Harry provided the first ever photo of the women’s HP team together in one place in Sochi.
Celia James has been instrumental in putting together perhaps the best model of athlete management in Australia where Scotty James has an internationally acclaimed coach and Scotty’s highly skilled brother Tim as trainer, wax tech and constant team companion. Scotty’s parents work tirelessly and in partnership with snowboarding legends the Teeters to shape Scotty James into the incredible talent and brand that he is.
We the parents are elected members of snow sports Boards and State Olympic Committees. Nick Kennedy, father of Skier X athlete Sami is on the board of SSA, as is Steve Cooper, father of moguls Olympian Ramone who now is employed by SSA.
Nicole Staveley, mother to Lauren, Cam and Luke, is on the Victorian Snowsports Committee. Even Dean Gosper is father-in-law to snowboarder Robbie Walker who competed on World Cup in 2013.
It is the parents who rally around when something goes wrong. A young rider stranded when travelling alone, assistance to those injured or in need of a bed when accommodation mishaps occur.
It is the parents who volunteer as house parents on Australian coaching camps overseas, the parents who fund their children to get there and the parents whose tax dollars go towards funding SSA and OWIA. And it is the parents that pay their children’s way training and competing overseas in order to get to a stage where they can qualify for high performance funding.
Even when they do get there parents are still co-funding subsidized coaches, physios, nutrition and sports psychologists. Those at the top end have managers, the rest have parents.
And it is the parents who quite rightly demand transparency and accountability from the structures that service the elite level of the sport.
What we have seen in recent media relating to Sochi and athlete funding is a public punch up between a parent and the CEO of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) that appears to have been going on in private for some time.
Agree or not with the timing and media recipients of Bruce Brockhoff’s email, the issues of funding raised by a clearly frustrated parent are legitimate and given the enormous contribution of parents at all levels of the sport need to be addressed. Full disclosure and an external review and audit is the only way to step away from the spin and develop a more equitable approach to snowboard development and support of elite snowboard athletes.
OWIA has both a transparency and snowboard performance problem. Three Olympic Games and the only snowboard medals, two from Torah Bright, have come from someone who has chosen to plough a path outside OWIA because the current system is apparently unacceptable to her.
The Australian Snowboard Team does not have a “tennis parent” problem; they have a parent asset bank.
Is Davis-Meehan right, Brockhoff right or the OWIA right? Should parents have a say and if so, where, when and at what level? Should the OWIA be more transparent on how they spend athlete funding?
Read more: Medalling Parents what the world can learn from David Morris’ family
Ellen Davis Meehan is a social research consultant and mother of Michaela Davis-Meehan, former World Rookie Champion and world cup circuit Slopestyle snowboader and Pat Davis-Meehan, former NSWIS Halfpipe rider. She is the name behind the Extreme Parenting Facebook page and a Board Member of Snowsports NSW and on its Snowboarding Sub-Committee and is a member of the National Snowboard Committee. As a skier, she is a very ordinary snowboarder.