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Getting Involved In "Extreme Sports": Advice From Parents Of Top Extreme Athletes

During the San Francisco X Games, MomsTeam talked to moms of some of the top athletes, who shared their experiences in the world of "extreme" sports and advice on what other parents should know to help them decide if these sports are right for their child.


A Generation Gap?

If you don’t know much about the new sports that have kids across the country jumping, spinning and riding every chance they get, relax! You are not alone. Despite having moved into mainstream culture, they are still very generational, with most parents knowing only what they learn from their kids. As a result, parents usually have lots of questions, like: Are these sports safe? Where do I take my kids to learn? How do I buy the proper equipment? Can you really make a living as an extreme athlete and how do I know if my child is good enough to compete?

Some of what moms told us was not surprising, including the very real risk of injuries. Every parent had a story about stitches or broken bones, but, as they pointed out, so does the parent of a football or soccer player. On the other hand, we were surprised when moms told us about how close many had become to their teenagers as a result of their support and involvement in their child’s choice of a non-traditional sport. Both the mothers and the athletes helped explain why many kids are drawn "alternative" sports instead of more traditional sports.

Family Support is Key

The mothers we spoke with, all who have children competing at these X Games, had to make tough decisions and sacrifices to help their kids reach this level of competition. In some cases they travel the country with their child to attend competitions, spending considerable time away from the rest of the family. The moms confess to having had concerns when their kids first began these sports about the possibility of injuries. And many of them had little knowledge, let along first hand experience, about sports like skateboarding or in-line skating. But once it became clear to them that this was what their child loved doing and that they had the talent, they committed themselves and their time to helping their children fulfill their dreams.

Debby Pastrana is the mother of 16-year-old Moto X freestyle phenom and gold medallist in the 1999 and 2000 X Games, Travis Pastrana. In this, one of the most dangerous sports at the X Games, where riders fly 35 feet in the air and perform extremely difficult tricks on a motorcycle, Debby has had to face her fears as a parent and rise above them to support her son’s dream. "Its hard, it’s very hard. Travis has broken over 20 bones and been in a wheelchair for two and half months when they weren’t sure if he would be paralyzed. It was the hardest thing as a parent, but you see your kid who tries and it’s in their heart. As a parent, if you see this in your child, you have to support it. You have to. And if you don’t support them then lots of things are going to be worse. Because then they feel the friction of that and don’t want to go against you. We are in it 100%, I’ve been with him every step of the way. When he’s hurt and in rehab, he never complains, and that’s when you know [that he’s committed]," explained Pastrana.

On the other hand, some parents still don’t see extreme sports as real athletic competition and, as a result, don’t respect the path their child has chosen. One parent, who didn’t want to give her name, shared with us how a lack of support can really harm a parent/child relationship. While both parents have decided to support their child’s decision to become a professional bike stunt rider, one parent continues to belittle the sport and has yet to attend any competitions. This has caused a lot of pain for their child and has seriously strained family relationships.

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