Preparing the child
"Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child," said Stephan Widmer (photo) to sports parents on the second day of the NYSI Youth Coaching Conference.
In a career spanning more than 20 years, Widmer has coached swimmers who have broken 20 world records, won three Olympic and 16 World Championship gold medals.
However, the National Head Coach and Performance Director of the Singapore Swimming Association, urged parents to "help your child see him or herself as a whole person, not just an athlete".
"Parents, this (sport) is your child's thing. All their successes are theirs, all their failures are theirs, all their problems are theirs," said Widmer.
He urged parents to avoid the trap of doing everything for their child.
"Teach them to deal with their own emotions, solve their own problems, and how to talk to authority figures. Prepare them for their own life," said Widmer.
Widmer also emphasised the need to take a long term view when it came to developing a swimmer.
He said, "Guess how many of the top 100 American swimmers under 10 years of age were still top 100 at ages 17-18? Two."
He urged parents to take a balanced approach, and that "early success does not guarantee future success".
Playing multiple sports growing up is important, said Widmer.
Widmer highlighted that "a high proportion of elite Australian athletes took part in a diverse variety of sports before specialising around 13-15 years of age", and that "Australian athletes at senior international events participated in an average of four different sports before specalising in their main sport".
And the four most powerful words you can say to your child?
"I love watching you," said Widmer.
"Do you know why it is so powerful? Because it is non-judgemental."