Obstacle Course Racing and Raising a Spartan Kid

By: Holly Joy Berkey

As the mother of a 6-year-old little boy who began his Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) racing career shortly after his fourth birthday, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing him fall in love with a sport that has made a staggering impact on our family. Not only have I achieved my own personal physical, emotional, and mental growth through the experiences I’ve had through training and racing, but I’ve also been provided the incredible gift of being able to run alongside a little boy whose energy and drive never cease to amaze me.

Raising a Spartan kid is not always easy work. For example, witnessing the physical demands of OCR can throw our motherly instincts into high alert as we instantly seek to “rescue” our little ones from any situation proving to be too stressful. Our society is filled with so-called “helicopter parents,” which is appropriate term describing those who hover around their children fearing that, at any moment, disaster may strike. However, a Spartan kid will learn to overcome adversity by way of conquering obstacles with their own grit and tenacity, and in turn, these experiences will help them grow up to become more resilient, well-rounded, and confident adults.

As the parent of a young Spartan, it’s not always easy to watch my son face adversity during a race. It’s also not easy to force myself to hold back when he struggles. But I encourage him to push on when he looks to me to step in and provide a way out for him. As his mother, I find that I must assess each situation individually to decide if he truly needs my help. I have to come to the conclusion that perhaps he’s simply struggling with a lack of confidence in his own abilities. There are certainly times when I have had to step in and gently guide him in the right direction, but the majority of the time I resist the urge to be the helicopter parent. It’s important that I allow him to persevere on his own so he learns what he is truly capable of achieving.

I understand my responsibility to my child is immense, and although I’m far from perfect, I do my best to adhere to the following principles when it comes to raising my son. Firstly, I cherish that we are able to share this incredible journey together as mother and son. I do my best to respect the time we spend together, knowing that all-too-soon he’ll grow up and will move on to make a life with a family of his own. Every moment, race, and experience is precious. Running together is just one more way for us to connect and build our relationship. I constantly find myself in awe of his incredible energy and resiliency.

As his mother, I must also protect him from harm, which means maintaining a watchful eye and helping hand – all while guiding him to understand his own limitations. I must teach him to be patient, to understand that progress takes time, and to accept the fact that he cannot always do what he wants to do simply because “it looks like fun.” I will comfort him when he fails and push him onward when he becomes frustrated because I know he is capable of overcoming anything. There’s a fine line between guiding a child and being over-protective. For my son, committing to take on the challenges of an obstacle course will help teach us both the virtues of patience, perseverance, and trust.

Overall, the virtues I seek to teach my child through his race experiences are also the ideals I hope he is able to carry with him off of the course in his daily life. The characteristics that will help him succeed as a Spartan will also aid him in becoming successful and taking on daily struggles. I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch my son grow and learn more at each event he races and for the chance to support him as he conquers each obstacle. I encourage him to push past his own insecurities and to strengthen the deep bond of mother and son on the muddy fields of a Spartan Race course. It’s a pretty incredible way to raise a child – as more and more families are discovering each year.

Share your love of Obstacle Racing with the child(ren) in your life, and find a Spartan Kids Race near you! You’ll be amazed at how incredible the experience is through your child’s eyes. We look forward to welcoming your family at your next Spartan Race!