By Erin Baker

This weekend the fifth annual Weetbix-Kiwi Kids Tryathlon will be held in Auckland.

The event is a triathlon for children aged from 8 to 14 who compete in a team or as an individual in any one of the six races held throughout New Zealand.

The series has involved about 35,000 children, and this weekend's event at St Heliers Bay will attract 2700 excited, nervous but extremely normal children.

The event has grown over the years in popularity, not only among the children but also among the parents. I can honestly say I have never heard so many grateful parents praising what the event has done for their children and their confidence and their family environment.

The event is called a "tryathlon" because we do not award prizes for first, second and third, but every child receives a medal and a certificate and has the chance to win spot prizes. It's a wonderful event, and I do believe that the young children who participate will have gained more than the tangible benefits they receive on the day.

This event has been great for my soul. Over the years that I was involved in triathlon, and certainly within the last 10 years, I have witnessed a growing change in the approach to participation in sport.

I, like many others, became a champion in a completely different manner from how today's serious athletes try to achieve a similar result. Participation has somehow become an uncool word.

Many parents now set their children along a course to encourage and then push them into a sport which has a financial reward at the end of the road. Parents are literally choosing their children's sporting careers, and at a very early age begin to determine the sport, the effort and the expense they are prepared to go to in order to make their child a star.

This is a fairly new phenomenon and is a direct result of the era of professional sport. However, what most of these parents do not realise is that they are overlooking the essential ingredients that make a person a champion - determination and genetics.

We may feel that we can make our child determined to become a champion, but at some stage in the life of most children, they decide to take control and normally, at that point, they try to place as much distance between the decisions they will make and the decisions their parents made for them.

So if you have toiled long and hard and indoctrinated your child about what they will be, you have already taken a great leap forward in pushing that child away from your dreams.

So, let the children participate. Yes, we must encourage and sometimes make them stick with things, especially when others depend on them, but don't mistake your dreams for their own desires.

You may just cost them any small chance they may have had.