July 27, 2017

Introducing Sports by Maggie Ayre

Research tells us that children involved in sports or regular physical activity are less stressed, perform better in school and enjoy better health- physical, mental and emotional. So, what’s the best way to introduce your child to sports and athletics to insure a positive experience for all?

How can a parent introduce sports/athletics to their child?  What is an appropriate age?

If you asked 10 different parents this question you’ll likely get 10 different answers. It very much depends on the individual child. Most children have the energy and interest to start afterschool and weekend activities when they are 5 or 6.  This is the ideal time to introduce something sporty once or twice a week. Choose the activity carefully based on your child’s interests and what their friends are doing. Their enjoyment is of paramount importance at this age.

Find a group with session specifically designed for children that include game based activities, learning basic skills and lots of FUN. Think outside the box when it comes to choice of sport – there are 100’s to choose from including karate, swimming, cricket, baseball, dance, soccer, ballet and so on. Or, a general fitness session may suit your child better. Use older siblings and school friends to help your child choose an activity. Also remember that kids of this age love to mimic their parents so find out if there is a youth section in your sport.

How hard should a parent push to promote their child continuing a sport if the child is resistant?

The parent needs to ask the child two important questions:
Why don’t you want to do the sport? 
Pushing a child to do something they don’t want to do so often backfires, however the situation determines the best course of action. For example, if your son doesn’t enjoy his karate sessions the 2-3 weeks before grading because they spend so much time practicing the techniques – if you encourage him through this, he’ll be proud of his grading result and start to share that karate is the best part of his week again!

What activity would you prefer to do?
Discourage from allowing your child to give up all sport and athletic activities in preference to non-active pursuits. Instead try to find an activity they will enjoy – something very different to what they’ve tried before. If they’re fed up with soccer, try swimming, if basketball doesn’t cut it anymore, try ballet. Allow your child to try lots of different activities until they find one they enjoy.

How should a parent approach a difficult or extreme coach?

Coaching has massively improved in the last ten years with many, many more specialist youth coaches appearing on the scene. However, there are exceptions and the first thing to bear in mind is that if you find a coach difficult or extreme other people probably do as well.  It is probably worth having a quiet word with some of the other parents and children to see if they share your views. Try the following course of action:

Talk to the coach and express your concerns, if this makes you uncomfortable talk to the assistant coaches. Try to set up a meeting between yourself, the coach and his assistants.  Hopefully most issues can be resolved at this meeting. If a direct meeting fails to improve the situation, consider the following:
Speak to the sports club manager.
Go to the governing body of your particular sport with your concerns.
Offer to volunteer as a helper at the sessions to keep a close eye on the atmosphere. All clubs are regularly looking for volunteers and you may be able to influence coaching style from the inside.

Maggie Ayre is the UKs Leading Fitness Coach for Teenage Girls. She has recently developed the 3G Program designed to be run in schools and youth clubs with the aim to get every teen girl active. She also offers Personal Training for Teenage Girls in person and via email, skype and video sessions. To learn more visit: www.maggieayre.com

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