Last updated: 08/04/2021
Parents play a key role their children’s sporting experiences, whether that’s as a supporter, coach, volunteering to help the team or getting players to and from games and tournaments. For many parents, it’s many or all of these things.
These roles give parents an ability to have massive contribution to how much children – theirs and others – enjoy the sports that they play. Here are five questions we think will help parents use their role to make winter 2021 a great sports season:
We’ve previously spoken about the importance of understanding your child’s why for playing sport? Ultimately, it’s important to understand your child’s why so that your behaviour matches with what drives their motivation for playing sport. The key thing here is having a conversation with your child about why they play sport / a sport? Following that, reflecting on how your behaviours support or undermines this why, and if necessary, ask for feedback from your child about how you can continue to support them.
We know happy parents are a key part of the equation when it comes to supporting young people to have great sport experiences. We also know that sport places many demands on parents, whether that be emotional, logistical or financial. So, what are some ways parents can keep actively and positive engaged?
Parents play a key role in supporting their children to find sports that they grow to love, and this starts with encouraging them to sample different sports. Research of New Zealand athletes on the verge of entering high-performance sport showed that, on average, they were playing five different sports in their primary school years and at least three different sports through secondary school.
Ultimately though, it’s about facilitating a balanced approach to development. The term pully-parent (as opposed to pushy-parent) was coined by David Epstein, when he talked about Roger Federer’s parents. As the story goes, Roger’s parents were very mindful to make sure his youth sport experience was full of a variety of sports, even at times hindering him from trying to commit singularly to tennis at an earlier age. Not only does early specialisation come with increased risks of overuse injury and overtraining syndrome, but there may also be an opportunity cost for not having a variety of experiences in development. For a discussion on this, see the excerpt from the TED Talk below to hear more from David Epstein talking about Roger Federer’s development experience: https://www.youtube.com/embed/B6lBtiQZSho
Recommended reading: Range – Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein
If your child would love to have ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, would you let them? Sometimes as parents, we have to say, “that’s too much”. For motivated and aspirational young athletes, there is often the risk that they will want to do lots (and sometimes too much) of a sport. When your child wants to do an activity they love, understandably, it is hard to say no.
One suggestion for parents of children who want to do lots of one sport is to actively encourage them to do other types of activities and sports in an informal setting. Variety of activities and sports is one way to mitigate the risks of overuse injuries and overtraining syndrome.
Overtraining syndrome, as it sounds, is simply doing more than the body can recover from – often to the point of declining performance and potential injury. A rough rule of thumb is that a young person is overtraining if the number of hours they spend doing training and competing in a given week is more than their age. Parents should use this number as a bit of a risk radar – that is, as the number of training and competition hours a young person participates in gets nearer to the upper threshold, parents should increase their monitoring for signs of overtraining.
These signs include:
Parents are best placed to look out for these symptoms. Ideally, even before any symptoms occur, parents should have a conversation with their child’s coach about how much training and competition load their child is doing.
Parents should also be aware that young people with multiple coaches are at greater risk of overuse injuries and overtraining syndrome because the different coaches often don’t know how other sessions are impacting an individual young person. If your child has multiple coaches, we suggest you share your child’s training and competition schedule with all their coaches.
There are a lot of factors that can threaten the integrity of youth sport and make it less safe, less fun and less fair for young people. Issues like child protection, avoiding harassment, and dealing with complaints aren’t just for club administrators or national bodies – they’re things everyone involved with young people in sport should know about
For parents, knowing what good practice looks like for safeguarding young people is important. Likewise, so is being able to direct coaches and organisations towards resources so that they can develop their own good practice to safeguard young people.
That’s why Sport NZ has created a Community Guidance Portal. This features information, policy and procedure templates and eLearning modules to support you in dealing with all matters of integrity. These resources are free of charge and suitable for individuals and organisations from grassroots to national bodies.
Article by Kelly Curr, a Sport Development Regional Consultant at Sport NZ.