Have your say in the comments and win yourself some ‘sponsor’ stickers…Child star he may have been, but this level of sponsorship is rarer than rocking horse sh*it. Shaun White is one of the very few who earn megabucks from snowboarding… / Photo by Gabe L’Heuruex
Words by an anonymous industry insider.
Ah, I remember those old dry slope days, the days when me and all my buddies would meet up and go riding. Parents would drop the kids off and leave them to it. The kids were cool. Snowboarding broke down barriers; no matter how old you were, where you were from or what music you were into, it brought everyone together. How times have changed. Those barriers – age and all the rest of it – are still being broken down, but lurking behind those barriers is a new threat. Parents. Parents stood by the lift making sure their kid is ‘pushing’ themselves. Parents window licking at the domes waiting to give little Jonny a rollicking for not sticking his tricks. Why? Are they just living vicariously through their kids? Or do they think snowboarding is going to offer them the retirement they have always dreamed of when little Jonny makes it big?
Snowboarding is not football. Nor is it a beauty pageant. Pushy parents have no place in snowboarding culture
Massive reality check guys! Snowboarding is not football. Nor is it a beauty pageant. Pushy parents have no place in snowboarding culture, and their arrival is making me want to hang up my boots and take a step away from the sport I have loved for over 10 years. OK, so snowboarding is more serious than it was back then – there are more opportunities for kids to get to the Olympics, there are more serious contests, and you can make a career out of being competitive. But it’s still pretty much a given that whether you are riding at the X Games or at a local dome, there is a camaraderie between the riders. No matter what brand they ride for or how much they want to win, they will still be stoked on the others’ riding. They share the same hotel rooms, book the same flights and will be hanging out together for a beer afterwards. But most importantly, they are all still doing it for fun.
Just look at some of the UK’s most successful snowboarders: Jamie Nicholls, Jenny Jones, Aimee Fuller, Dan Wakeham – all of them started snowboarding for a laugh and all of them progressed by riding with their mates, for fun. Yes they have gone down the competition route – they train, they are coached and they work hard for their sponsors – but they would not be where they are today if they had not been allowed to grow to love snowboarding, if they had not been allowed to push themselves in a relaxed friendly environment, free of parental rivalries and extreme competitive attitudes. Parents need to realise that if they pressure their kids, they will actually stifle their progression. More importantly, they’ll kill their love of the sport.
Parents need to realise that for the vast majority, snowboarding is not a bejewelled land of endless opportunity with money flowing from bountiful sponsors
Parents also need to realise that for the vast majority, snowboarding is not a bejewelled land of endless opportunity with money flowing from bountiful sponsors. For the most part it’s a world of people who work incredibly hard for very little money out of a passion for the sport. Many ‘pros’ have been riding for years, working hard to represent their sponsors on product-only deals in the hope that one day they might get a travel budget. In terms of actual salary, they get nothing. The increasing number of parents who ask for cash from little Jonny’s sponsors are living in cloud cuckoo land. What little cash there is will go to the guys who have paid their dues. And remember, product isn’t free either, brands have to pay for it – it still comes out of somebody’s bank account.
The sad fact is that these days, parents can thwart their kids’ chances of getting sponsored at all by being pushy and annoying. Yep, when a brand looks at sponsoring kids, the parents affect that decision. Nightmare parent? Steer clear. Another sad thing is that the fixation with sponsorship is being passed on to the next generation. Sponsors are not merit badges. They’re not even necessarily marks of your kid’s talent – so many kids have hookups these days that it’s almost losing its meaning. And anyway, my fondest memories from 10 years of snowboarding are of being covered in slope slime with duct-taped boots and clothing that was falling apart. It’s all about the riding at the end of the day, everything else is just window dressing.
So pushy parents, how about you let your kids just ride? Support and encourage them by all means, take them to the dryslope or the dome when they want to go, but stop being so competitive, and quit with the pushing.
What do you think? Does snowboarding have a problem with pushy parents? Or do kids need all the help they can get from mum and dad if they’re going to take their riding to the top level? Have you say below, and the best comments will win some stickers.