Adams tosses pearls of wisdom

Last updated 13:00 05/12/2012
Valerie Adams
MARTIN DE RUYTER/Fairfax NZ
OPENING UP: Valerie Adams speaks at the 2012 Nelson Sports Awards.

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The Nelson Sports Awards recognised some of the region's top young athletes last week, while double Olympic champion Valerie Adams shared her advice for young athletes and their parents with Jonathan McKeown.

Valerie Adams is about as direct as a 4kg metal ball being launched through the air. She doesn't deviate and the impact of her words is sure to leave an imprint.

In some ways the double-gold medallist shared many of the same issues that face young athletes from our region; she was naturally gifted and could have chosen any number of sports.

On the other hand, Adams' early sporting career in South Auckland was a world away from the warm environment in Tasman.

Though the school of hard knocks and imposed independence has shaped the champion in ways she wouldn't change - far from it. In reality, she would like to see more youth athletes fend for themselves.

"They need to be able to take ownership of their life and what they want to do as far as sports, and make it something that they want to do as opposed to what Mum and Dad wants [them] to do," Adams said.

"Without sounding too harsh.

"It is simple stuff when you are young. Taking responsibility for yourselves, not being mollycoddled by Mum and Dad, making sure that you take the initiative to do stuff on your own."

Adams' opinions are very much shaped by her life experience. The triple world champion cared for her mother until she passed away when Adams was just 15.

"Some kids have everything and some kids don't, but you have to take responsibility for your own doing.

"I did that and I believe a lot of young athletes in New Zealand need to do that more, and, parents need to let them take responsibility instead of doing everything for them."

For Adams, being 1.93 metres tall since she was 12 years old made intermediate school one of the most difficult times of her life, being called big foot and giant.

However, sport was an area where she could feel normal.

Not just normal though, Adams was superlative. As a young athlete she played basketball for Counties Manukau and Auckland and she excelled at rugby, volleyball and netball.

Like many of Nelson's top college athletes, whether it is basketball or netball, hockey or touch, athletics or volleyball, rugby or cricket, eventually, as with the Olympic champion, a choice has to be made.

"If they look within themselves, they already know which sport to pursue," Adams said. "Track and field was my calling.

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"As a young athlete you have to try everything. Then along the way you will be able to nail it down to something you are good at, you have talent at, something you are willing to put in the hard work in for, something you love doing.

"I found that shot-putting, throwing a heavy implement was what clicked with me. I could have done discus or something else, but shot-putting just felt right.

"If they find it, they train it and they feel it, then they will know what is good for them."

As for any other pearls, or metal balls, of wisdom the sporting heroine had to offer, her parting shot was typically straight.

"It's not easy, what we [elite athletes] do, if it was easy, everybody would do it," said Adams. "But, it is important for them [young athletes] to see that regardless of what happens in life, you can achieve your goals if you just put your heart and soul into it."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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