Role of Parents in Sport
Just when the momentum building around female sport looked to be at risk due to Covid-19, Australia gets not one but, TWO pieces of good news! Firstly, the news that Sydney is hosting the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2022 and then, it’s announced that we are also co-hosts to the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup in 2023. How exciting, especially for the next generation of aspiring athletes…
Research confirms that the benefits to children playing sport are impressive – and plentiful! From developing communication skills and building an extra social circle, to improved academic performance and increased self-esteem. Sport has particular benefits for young girls yet, by the age of 14years, girls start dropping out of sport twice as fast as boys.
What can parents do to support their children playing and staying in sport?
A lot actually. Above all other adults, parents remain the main role model for their own child’s sports participation.
The importance of both parents being physically active and involved in sport has a great impact. AusPlay data shows 72% of children with at least one active parent, play sport and are physically active outside school. It rises to 89% of children when at least one parent is both physically active and involved in sport in a non-playing role.
Research also shows that there’s a role for both parents. Young athletes tend to go to Dad for more “technical” advice and to Mum for “emotional” support so there is definitely an opportunity for both parents to be positive sporting role models.
Your children will notice what parents “do” as well as what they “say” so the behaviours parents display around sport are just as powerful as words. For example, do your children see you being active? And, do you talk positively about being active?
Creating a positive sporting environment
Parents who actively enable their child’s sport, create positive sporting environments by being a good role model before, during and after competition:
Before sport – Enable sport by offering practical and psychological support where possible by buying active birthday gifts, establishing positive sleep patterns, feeding nutritious meals, as well as consoling and encouraging when it’s needed. Offer support in the way your child needs it. Try asking things like: How can I best support you? What is it you want me to do for you on competition days? What is the way I support you best?
During sport – Leave the coaching to the coaches and display supportive sideline behaviours such as positive body language (e.g. nodding, smiling, uncrossed arms, etc). If verbally acknowledging good plays, ensure it’s for both teams and all players. Treat someone else’s child as you would want your own to be treated. Avoid negative commentary towards your child, either team or officials. It is not helpful to anyone, in fact, it’s been shown to be extremely detrimental to your child.
After sport – Don’t let your child dread the car trip home with you! Park your emotions outside the car. Try asking rather than advising. Ask questions, and listen to responses – you will gain valuable insight into what was happening from your child’s perspective – it was them competing, not you. And, if things have not gone well for them and they don’t want to talk about it, just leave it. Maybe that car trip home is best spent singing along to their favourite songs instead of a post-game analysis and all they might need to hear is: “It’s only a game” and “There’s always next week”.
Above all else, balance their sport with life, school and homework, friendships and socialising, free time and relaxation.
Lessons from sport
When done well, the key skills learnt from sport are often key skills in life. What are these skills and how do you support them in your child at home, and also at sport? Examples include, communication, resilience, flexibility, determination, etc!
Sport provides the space to learn how to turn challenges into opportunities and for your child to see things from a “glass half full” perspective. Resilience is required because sport is never a purely linear journey – there are many ups and down, injuries and disappointments.
The positive support parents provide during the difficult times and the parental guidance to turn tragedy into triumph will help determine your child’s ultimate longevity in sport as well as their enjoyment along the way. And that is what is most important, for life!