Steve Kish knew his daughter Jen was destined for greatness in sport from the time she was a little girl.
“She just had that sparkle in her eye,” Steve recalled. “No matter what sport she was in, she didn’t just play it; she was good at it.”
Jen Kish, captain of Canada’s Women’s Rugby Sevens team, has been praising her father ever since she led her team to a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“My dad is one of my heroes,” Kish said in a recent interview with Global News. “Going to the Olympics was my gift back to him.”
“To all those single parents out there who are struggling – keep setting a great example for your kids and they will pick it up.”
Global News recently caught up with Jen’s father from his home in Bali, Indonesia to find out how he helped his daughter reach her Olympic dreams.
Q: Did you always see Jen doing big things?
A: Oh, definitely. It went right back to when she was five or six years of age. We come from a sports family background, so I started both Jen and Jason at an early age. We got them into martial arts just to keep their mind focused between school and sports… I think rugby found her back in high school. She was playing men’s football with the Mill Woods Grizzlies plus with the high school, W.P. Wagner. At the time, she was the only female. There were some doubters out there going: ‘Why are you doing this?’ I would just say: ‘She’s doing it because she’s good at it and you’re scared of her.’ Believe me, there were some players who were terrified of her because of how fierce she played. Then the coach – at some point the boys get a whole lot bigger – she just said: ‘Why don’t you try rugby? Take a run at that.’ So she did and she just took to that one.
Q: What was it like seeing her at the Olympics?
A: You can only get so close to the athletes, being at the Olympics. It was pretty scheduled. Pretty strict. You can see them but you can’t touch them…The best we could do at the first couple games was just do air hugs and try to get as close as I could. The final game against Great Britain, when the bronze medal came up…As she was exiting the field, I was right there at the exit tunnel…she scaled up the wall and it was pretty emotional. Big hug.
Q: What’s your advice to single parents?
A: Support them fully. If they believe it and you believe it, it will come together. You’ll achieve it for sure. It’s just that sometimes it takes time and there are sacrifices for sure…I kicked negative things out of the picture 100 per cent. Just focused on positive attitude and respect. You get those things going, things will turn out in a positive way all the time. And surround yourself with positive people. That’s what worked for me. I made sure that both my kids were in a positive environment all the time.
Q: Honestly, how hard was it on your own?
A: It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure… You’ve just got to bear down and man up to it…You know things get tight, having to work two jobs. Sometimes I had a third job. Money was tight. Real tight. Literally, counting pennies and dimes and nickles going, ‘Ok – bills are paid. Got food. What’s leftover? Oh, I’ve got like five bucks. Guess I have to wait another two weeks.’ It was down to that after budgeting.
Q: What does it take to raise an Olympian?
A: It takes patience, that’s for sure. Lots of patience. And of course there are sacrifices especially if your child is in sports and they’re really starting to excel at it…You virtually never see them, and if you do it’s such a short time, you don’t really get to catch up. It’s like: ‘OK, gotta go. Gotta get back to training. Gotta do this, I gotta do that’…so it is a big sacrifice and you’ve got to have lots of patience because they’re following their dream and, as a parent, you stand by it and support them 100 per cent.
Watch below: Jen Kish speaks about how her dad supported her in male-dominated sports
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