“You just want something that is safe, fun, and fair.”
As a mother of 11-year-old twins, that’s what Lashinda Demus is looking for in youth sports. But the two-time Olympian and silver medalist in 400-meter hurdles wasn’t always focused on the fun.
“I’m very competitive, so I try not to put that on them.”
“How I approach being a mom, teaching them about sports and how to live within the sport, is different than what I thought while I was competing. I don’t speak to them as if I was an athlete, I speak to them as a mom who knows about sports.”
Coming from a family of track stars, Demus realized she had extraordinary natural abilities on the track after winning a sports award around the sixth grade.
“My mom was a track athlete and it was always a badge of honor to say that you did something the right way. I grew up saying, ‘I didn’t have to cheat to do that! I did this all by myself’ or ‘I did this by working hard!’”
In high school, she found her stride on the track and field team, and as a sophomore, she broke her high school’s 10-year record in 300-meter hurdles, which stood for another 16 years. At the University of South Carolina, Demus helped her team win their first national championship and she went on to break the American record in 400-meter hurdles with her race time at the 2011 World Championship in Athletics, which still stands today.
Demus believes that without an equal playing field for all young athletes, “it would create a society of entitlement. Kids that expect things to go their way. And, life is not like that.”
Throughout her sports career, Demus dreamt big. Her competitive nature combined with her ‘hard work pays off’ mentality helped her achieve her goals in and outside of sports, which is something she wants young athletes to learn from their own sport experiences.
“Once you set goals and hit them, that does something for a kid. It taught me that if you work hard towards a goal, you’ll get it. I think that’s important to understand as a kid.”
From integrity and hard work, to perseverance and tolerance, Demus encourages parents to remember that no matter the level of your child’s capabilities, there is more to sports than winning. And it’s never worth winning at all costs.
“Whether your child is athletically talented or not, sport is a life lesson.”
“Having patience, gaining knowledge, teaching yourself how to get better, and encouraging yourself are all things that kids mentally need to be successful,” not only in the sports world, but in every other aspect of life.
As a parent, Demus knows that her actions speak louder than words. She focuses on proactively taking what she’s learned through her youth sport experience and setting a good example for her children to teach them the same values she learned through sport.
“Even socially, it helps. You come into contact with so many different people from so many different walks of life. You become tolerant to different things because of sports.”
“It’s definitely something that enhances your life as a child.”