‘It takes a special kind of selflessness to support your child in their sport’ – Ben Goodall

Ben Goodall, who has just been selected to represent GB in the 2017 World Age Group Championships for Tumbling, reflects on the support of his parents during Parents in Sport Week.

My journey to becoming a GB team Tumbling gymnast first started at my local leisure centre’s gymnastics class.

The class was something my parents had signed me up for - as well as the typical football and tennis classes. It was important to them that I tried a wide variety of activities. Gymnastics was the thing I enjoyed the most and so I stuck with it, slowly progressing onto a new club where I could join a boy’s gymnastics squad and start competing in club and eventually national competitions.

This wasn’t an easy transition; I was a very securely attached child which made it hard for me to leave my parents even for one class. They knew I was passionate for the sport and they didn’t want me to miss out and so always had the right amount of perseverance, persuasion and ‘drop and run’ approach - without which I wouldn’t have been doing gymnastics past 7-years- old.

Specialising in Tumbling

One of the not so popular roles parents have is being the taxi service. When I switched clubs due to my old coach being promoted elsewhere it meant a three-hour round trip for training in Milton Keynes for my parents and grandparents! I wasn’t really progressing any further in the sport at that point, but it was at Milton Keynes that I was spotted for my talents on floor and the trampoline. I was asked by the tumbling coach if I wanted to specialise in the discipline of tumbling and it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and one that my parents played a pivotal role in making sure it was the right one for me.

My family’s support

There was no pushing either way; it was focused around where I would get the most enjoyment and the potential to achieve more. Training hours and frequency went up but my family continued to support my athletic endeavours. As I progressed further, I was doing bigger competitions that would mean whole weekends of their time to drive me to and then sit nervously hours upon end waiting for me to do two or three routines of 9-seconds duration each!

It takes a special kind of selflessness to support your child in their sport. As Tumbling is a non-Olympic sport it is not funded and so somebody, namely, mum, dad and grandparents, have to fork out the cash to pay for training fees, kit, competition entry fees, car fuel, the chiropractor, MRIs, all of the chicken breasts and the eggs…

There have been numerous occasions for me where, if it wasn’t for the emotional support of my parents, I would have quit Tumbling. They have always had a way of putting things into perspective, making me realise how far I have come, and even if I said a training session was bad, they would soon turn that around and help me interpret it differently. Often when I’ve come home from uni for the weekend my dad would offer to take me to training and pick up my spirits if it had been a bad week, help me solve solutions to challenges such as fitting training in around studying, working around injuries etc - even if he does use football analogies a lot of the time.

They would never punish me for not performing well or having a bad training session - it’s not because I didn’t try my hardest, and it just wasn’t a good day for it. I took up the sport in the first place for fun - it’s not a job, it’s not school, so there is never any point to punish a child, as long as they are still enjoying what they are doing, that’s all that matters. That’s something my parents would regularly check on.

Dinner times

There must have been many times for my parents where I have been a pain after telling my mum she can’t put a sauce in the dinner because it contains a preservative or it’s too high in [insert latest ‘bad food’ here]. But she put up with me and always worked around my dietary requirements, which I am grateful for. Furthermore it was my mum who introduced me to the power of Excel for creating revision timetables. This was back when I first started my GCSE’s and I still use that same formula spreadsheet today at University to apply it to the build up to this year’s British Championships.

Role models 

Not only do my parents play a role in my sporting career, they also play a role in the wider community. My mum was one of the committee members for the first gymnastics club I attended, my dad even designed the logo for it, which he has recently done for my brother’s basketball team. Which brings me to my next point, my brother. He is completely different to me in that he didn’t get along with gymnastics when he was younger but loves team sports, especially basketball. It’s a big commitment that my family has to make in order to allow me to train and compete in my sport at the level that I have and I know they have to make a conscious effort to make sure my brother never feels left out. It’s hard to juggle all of their own and both their son’s commitments, academically and sporting, but they do it and they do so without dropping a single ball. So, Mum and Dad, I can’t say thank you enough.

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