A leading UK sports official has warned ambitious parents against pushing their children too hard. Support them alright, but you could end up damaging your children's mental and physical health if you overreach, says Rod Jaques, national medical director of the English Institute of Sport, which works with elite athletes.
Addressing the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), Dr Jaques noted that when a parents' love was "conditional" on the child's achieving sporting success, the latter could feel harried and develop eating disorders. Some even invent injuries to escape the ordeal.
He said: "I think it is a tough one when a parent comes into the consultation who is both the coach and parent. It is a potential for conflict of interest there.
"It's a very delicate balance between encouragement and support for that child, and its potential for being a mentor or a tormentor of the child I think is really quite real.
"It is often anecdotally said that behind every injured child is a parent athlete wanting to get out.
"Australians have gone a bit further and called this the ugly parent syndrome and we probably have witnessed this on the side of our rugby fields or football fields of the bawling parent, not just at the referee but at the child on the field of play."
Dr Jaques said in UK most parents bringing up a child competing at a high level have the dynamic 'absolutely right' and are 'caring and loving and the love is entirely unconditional."
But he added: '"Occasionally, I don't see that. The love is conditional upon them having sporting success. But that's rare, I want to stress that, it's rare, but it occasionally happens and it is worrying to see it in a medical context."
The conference also heard that private school pupils were more likely to become Olympic athletes than their state school counterparts.
Dr Jaques told delegates that 34% of the Great Britain team at the Beijing games were educated privately, with almost half of Britain's medal haul won by privately educated athletes.