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Comment: Questions all parents should ask themselves about kids sport

As a parent, how can you stay active and positively engaged during this season? Photo / Getty Images

OPINION

With the start of a new sporting season, it’s a great time for parents to arm themselves with the skills and knowledge that will ensure their child (and themselves) have a positive experience this winter.

Parents play a key role in their children’s sporting experiences, whether as supporters, coaches, volunteers helping the team, or transporting players to and from games and tournaments. For many parents, it is many or all of these things.

These roles give parents the opportunity to make a big contribution to how much fun children have in their sport. In the next few articles we’ll look at five questions from Sport NZ that could help parents use their role to make winter 2023 a great sporting season – here are the top three:

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1. Do I know my child’s “why” for sport? And does my behavior support their “why”?

Ultimately, it’s important to understand your child’s “why” so that your behavior aligns with what drives their motivation to exercise. The key here is to talk to your child about why they play sports, without unduly influencing their answer! You should then consider how your behavior supports or undermines that “why” and, if necessary, seek feedback from your child on how to continue to support them.

2. As a parent, how will I be actively and positively involved during this season?

We know that happy parents are a key part of the equation when it comes to helping young people have great sporting experiences. We also know that sport places many demands on parents, be it emotional, logistical or financial. So, what are some ways parents can stay active and positively engaged? Find out about youth sport – that’s what balanceisbetter.org.nz was created for. For parents new to a sport, something as simple as having your coach or child explain the rules or strategy can help give you the understanding you need.

Don’t let winning and losing get in the way of the broader lessons that sport can teach us. In the face of adverse moments—losing, being voted out, poor refereeing, etc.—set an example for emotionally intelligent responses to your child.

Connect, share and ensure transparency on logistics and commitments between the “broader team”. Most sports these days are pretty good at outlining what athlete commitments look like early in the season, and parents will quickly find out what that means for them. Often this can take the form of an email introduction or an introductory evening. If your coach/club/school does not host a meeting we would encourage you to ask. These meetings are good forums to clarify logistical commitments and other expectations related to behaviors and codes of conduct.

3. Does my child get enough variety?

Parents play a key role in helping their kids find sports they love, and this starts with encouraging them to try different codes. Research on New Zealand athletes about to enter high-level sport showed that they played an average of five sports during their elementary school years and at least three sports by high school. Does your child get enough variety?

In the next article, we will address the last two questions parents should ask themselves

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