THE financial pressures of amateur sport is forcing aspiring athletes to give up their dreams, according to a Woodley dad.
Tim Cowen, the father of 11-year-old world tumbling champion William, believes the limited support available for budding stars and their families is a “drop in the ocean” compared to the cost of training and travelling to competitions.
The Thames Water engineer and his wife Claire currently support William, who won the 11 to 12 years age group at the world championships in Florida last November, but are searching for sponsorship to fund more trips abroad.
His siblings, Alexander, nine, and Rosie, seven, have also shown potential to succeed in the sport and the trio train at Pinewood Gymnastics Club in Crowthorne seven days a week.
The family, fromHaddon Drive, have found a routine to help the children train and do well in school but Mr Cowen admits he cannot imagine how he will continue to pay for all three to compete at national and international level.
He said: “It’s a massive commitment to all parents involved. More funding would open up more
opportunities and create more
potential national champions, or
even European and world champions.
“We have to give up an awful lot, such as holidays, to fund it. It would be fantastic if something was there. We have a little help from Wokingham but it’s a drop in the ocean of the overall costs.
“We are now getting a CV together for William so we can ask businesses for sponsorship. We will need it if we are going to fund him and his brother. It’s almost not worth thinking about it.
“A lot of athletes will drop out because of the finances, which is really sad.”
Despite their rigorous schedule, which often sees them coming home at 9pm on week nights, Mr Cowen added that his children, who attend Willow Bank Junior School, love being part of the club.
He said: “They couldn’t do what they do if they didn’t enjoy it. It has been hugely rewarding, and last year, especially for William, was amazing.
“The school has been great as well, letting us know how they are getting on and giving them time off when they compete.
“The problem is that support is there for adults, but not for kids when they really need it.”
Simon Worsfold from SportsAid, a charity for young athletes, understands the challenges parents face.
He said: “When young people come into sport it’s often because of their family’s influence. The mums and dads are the taxi service, the nutritionist and the bank — they are vital.
“On average it costs around £6,000 a year to fund a young athlete — for any family that’s a huge amount of money.
“Usually a club will nominate somebody for funding and young people have to often do their own fundraising.”