The Danger Zone of Extreme Sports
From age 5 until she left for college, Jenny Rollins was on a saddle, winning equestrian events across Ohio. She knew her horses well and came to love the thrill of riding, jumping and showing.
So when her daughter wanted to follow suit eight years ago, Rollins was excited to see her develop that special bond between a girl and her pony. Audrey, now 14, excelled and last year made it to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association's national competition.
Still, Rollins gets a nagging fear every time Audrey steps into the show ring.
"If you ride, you will fall off," Rollins said. "I have to remind myself that she has the correct training, she's prepared to do this, and we're not pushing her past what her limit is right now."
Many parents face a similar challenge when their kids take up a dangerous sport. For the Rollins family, minimizing risks has been key to keeping mom and daughter safe and happy.
"As a mom, I feel like I've put Audrey in a really safe environment for a dangerous sport," Jenny Rollins said.
Practicing six days a week at Bookmark Farms in Pataskala, Audrey benefits from consistency, steady progress and constant communication. And, over the years, she's learned the value of patience, preparation and discipline.
"If you don't have the fundamentals, you can't do anything," Audrey explained. "It's never fun to go into something you're not ready for."
Remaining patient and knowing a child's limits are essential to avoiding injury in extreme pursuits, longtime BMX racer Allen Godfrey explained.
"You always have to ease them into things," he said. "A main reason these sports are dangerous or have that perception is because kids get out and see it, they're not guided by their parents, and they jump in and hurt themselves."
When his children followed dad onto the track, Godfrey made sure his son Reno, 8, and daughter Helena, 10, had proper instruction and lots of practice. Before races nearly every weekend, dad and kids suit up in pads and put their equipment in order.
"You have to be vigilant with them protecting themselves," Godfrey said. "Once you can get past the older kids making fun of your pads, it makes it much easier to learn these things when you're not getting injured all the time."
Safety & Success
Tips to minimize the risks of dangerous sports:
- Use proper equipment. Helmets and pads are a must for most extreme sports. Make sure skateboards, bikes and other equipment are in good shape.
- Find a coach who cares. Some are aggressive, others laidback. Whichever type you choose, pick one with a genuine interest in your child's welfare.
- Know your limits. Kids who have yet to develop physically might have to wait to try some pursuits. Don't push them too quickly.
- Resist comparing. Kids who see others excel may want to progress too quickly. Patience will ensure safety at every level.
- Have fun. Injuries often happen when kids get scared. Assess whether your teen is having a good time or just trying to please you.