Young athletes face intense pressure from many directions. They have to impress their coaches, build relationships with teammates who they are also inevitably in competition with, and (usually) maintain their studies while training to become elite athletes. Some even have to deal with a particularly complicated source of pressure— their parents.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is an 18 year old English footballer with a ton of promise. The young winger came out of Arsenal’s youth system and made two appearances for the first team in late 2014, one in the Champions League and one in the Premier League, both as substitutes. He has talent, he has a solid work ethic, and with a bit of luck can go far in his career.
He also has a mother who likes to get personally involved in said career.
Maitland-Niles’ mother, Jules, has a tendency to run afoul of coaches and other club staff. Last year she was banned from Arsenal’s training facility after getting into an argument with coaches that turned physical and involved the police.
Now comes word that Mrs. Niles may have had a hand in her son’s recent lack of playing time. The player, currently on a season-long loan at Ipswich Town, was kept from attending an England kit launch last month by manager Mick McCarthy. Mrs. Niles was reportedly so incensed by that decision that she left an obscene voicemail message for McCarthy. The manager apparently responded by dropping the young man from the team for the upcoming game, a home meeting with Blackburn Rovers (which they won 2-0). Maitland-Niles hasn’t featured for the Tractor Boys since.
To be clear, it’s not really fair to pin all the young man’s career troubles on his mother. There’s a defensible argument to be made that McCarthy is being unfair by punishing him (and the team) for something his mother did. And as an 18 year old, it’s well past time the player takes responsibility for his career and his life, even (especially?) if that means setting some boundaries with his mother.
Still, it may be best for all parties is Mrs. Niles took a step back (and some deep breaths) before her son is put in a truly impossible situation.