The Rio 2016 Olympics have been a trending topic–mostly because media-drenched American athletes won more medals and commanded more air time than in any other Olympics in recent history. The Olympics come and go every two years (counting both winter and summer versions), and their inspiration goes beyond the time allotted in the medias. They inspire children far into the future.

When we watch the Olympics, we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for our country when our athletes do well, but there’s also a more personal connection for many. Someone who swims has a deeper emotional investment in the swimming competitions, while a skier will be more excited about the winter games than the summer games. Children involved in sports also experience a kinship to the athletes representing their discipline. With the regular addition of sports in competition, more children have a chance to relate.

 Inspired by the Olympics

Seeing an Olympic athlete win and succeed, especially against the odds, is something that is inspiring to all of us. When the Olympics are taking place, many children around the world see how crowds cheer and react to the winners and want a taste of that glory for themselves. Thankfully, many current Olympians have been crediting playing and watching the games as youngsters for their own inspiration. And many have praised the support received from parents, extended families, coaches and communities. This, in our eyes, is a great eye opener for the kids, able to connect sport with community.

For children who are already athletes, or at least interested in becoming athletes, the Olympics can be a driving force in what pushes them to aspire to greatness. When a young swimmer thinks about Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian and his swimming prowess, they can feel compelled to match that level of success – or even want to surpass it.

 The Olympics as a Positive Motivational Tool

Many children require motivation in order to work hard, and that requires a little bit of a push at times. Parents of sport children should take the time to sit down and watch the Olympics with their children, or show them videos of past Olympic greats. This shouldn’t be used as a pressuring tool, but as a positive example – i.e. this Olympian did something great, and you can do something great too. As with any game watching during the year, it is also a time of communion and showing interest for the child’s passion.

In this same vein, it’s also important to be realistic. Not everyone who dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete makes it to the famed athletics competition. This is okay – the main point is to use the Olympics as a positive motivation tool, not a steadfast goal that must be accomplished in order to be successful.

Many successful athletes don’t make it to the Olympics, and that’s okay. Children can be inspired by greatness and not reach that caliber – but remind them that because they were so inspired, they tried hard and stuck to practicing and training in order to get better. Remind them that Olympic competitors worked hard consistently, for years, to earn their spot, and that many worked as hard – but fell short of the qualification – and should also be celebrated. This is an opportunity to show your children that you appreciate their drive, and support their journey, no matter where it leads.

The Olympics can be what inspires a child to discover sports, and with that can come a lifelong passion for something they love. We applaud anything that drives children to be more active and disciplined, happier and healthier – whether they win Gold, or not.