Parents in Sport Development: Tribute to Richard Williams

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

The sporting world learned with anxiety and empathy about the stroke that Richard Williams suffered recently. His daughters, Venus and Serena, took their time in announcing the serious ailment that had befallen their beloved father.

They wanted to continue paying tribute to him in the best way they know that is playing good tennis at the recently held Wimbledon Tennis championships.

There is absolutely no doubt that Richard Williams will fight the disease to the bitter end. Richard Williams is a tough guy, who has fought many battles in his personal life, growing up as an African-American man and parent in the unforgiving and underprivileged suburbs of Los Angeles, California in the US.

Richard Williams loved the game of tennis so much that he wanted his two daughters to play the game to the very best of their ability.

He did not know much about the game himself or even the coaching side of it. Instead of being hindered by his lack of knowledge about the game, he taught himself all he needed to know about the game and how he could teach the game to his two young daughters.

Richard Williams was not a wealthy man by any standards. He did not need fancy country club facilities to introduce his daughters to the game of tennis. He utilised available public sport facilities, which were, more often than not, gathering grounds for neighbourhood gangsters, drug peddlers and takers.

This did not deter him again as he made sure that he could enjoy the game of tennis with his daughters.  What Williams did was to put his daughters on a launch-pad to become some of the greatest players of tennis of all time.

Venus and Serena have made and are continuing to make wonderful history. Their achievements on the tennis court are now a matter of public knowledge and global acclaim.

Too often, parents instil a victim mentality in their children. They teach their children to externalise all blame and abdicate responsibility for their lives.

Parents look up to local and central governments as well the school system to provide everything that their children need, even career guidance and inspiration.

There is absolutely no excuse for parents not being involved in the lives of their own children. Poverty is not an excuse as Richard Williams amply demonstrated by single-handedly developing tennis stars.

The young ladies have taken the game of tennis by the scruff of the neck, bringing much-needed diversity in the game characterised by elitism and privilege. Fathers and mothers in Southern Africa need to follow the good example of Richard Williams.

Obviously, not all kids are going to be global stars but it is important that parents introduce their children to various pursuits in life in order for them to explore, grow and choose what they like best.

No one can stop a determined group of parents from liaising with authorities to identify and designate land for the construction of sports facilities in any neighbourhood in Southern Africa.

Even with the most rudimentary facilities and equipment, children can develop skills in various sport codes, which they can utilise in their own sport careers.

The problem is that parents are always blaming other people for the social ills that afflict their own children. If kids are bored and are resorting to alcohol-based entertainment, drug abuse and promiscuity, it is the responsibility of parents to help their own children and not expect people from somewhere to come and help them.

Parents must adjust to the reality of life confronting them. Blaming authorities is easy and it is common knowledge that talk is cheap but taking decisive action is another thing. Action speaks louder than words, so we have been always told. Action breeds confidence and allows parents to provide dynamic and visible leadership.

Governments and even private sector companies do not want listen to people complaining and lamenting every time. Parents and communities should ask themselves what is that they are doing for their children and each other.

If parents come together to work for and demand positive transformation in the lives of their children, they will start a powerful train of development, which can bulldoze and crush anything in its way. It is also common knowledge that the world makes way for those who know where they are going?

Do parents and communities in Southern Africa know where they are going in terms of the physical, psychological and social development of their children?

Life is tough but sometimes people make it even tougher for themselves, their children and grandchildren. Alcoholism, substance abuse, teenage pregnancies as well as gender-based violence can never be foundations of a prosperous society.

The promotion of sport and physical recreation can help to alleviate a lot of the afore-mentioned social challenges and it starts with the parents. Not everyone can coach their children like Richard Williams but there is no harm in taking an active interest in the sporting career of a child.

To kick-start the process in some communities, national sports authorities should embark on awareness programmes for parents on the critical role they can play in the development of clubs, associations and ultimately, their own children.

To this end, the Southern Times Sports Forum wishes Richard Williams a speedy recovery from the stroke which is afflicting him. No one is perfect but he is as tough as they come from the ‘hood (ghettos) and is the ultimate modern parent, taking responsibility!

July 2016
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