How to engage your children in sports for life

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Baby in football boots

Few parents go as far as Richard Williams, who started coaching his daughters Venus and Serena on the public tennis courts of Compton, Los Angeles, every morning before they had even started school, and who began guiding them towards Wimbledon success by developing an 85-page plan. For the rest of us, parents may still play a big part in encouraging their kids’ enjoyment of sports and exercise from an early age.

According to Claire-Marie Roberts, a psychologist and the Premier League’s head of coach development, “Parents and guardians play an absolutely important part in children’s initiation to sport, with their encouragement behind the child’s tenacity and progression.” Here are some tips to encourage kids to move so they may all benefit from being active on a physical, emotional, and social level.

Pre-schoolers

Start ASAP, but focus on fun
You can never start too early, according to Roberts. “Getting youngsters into activities at the earliest chance establishes a pattern.” Visit a park, a swimming pool, or a soft play area with your baby to get them started on fun. “Throwing and catching is wonderful for developing hand-eye coordination, and we make up crazy games, like taking out pots and pans and trying to toss a ball into them,” says Greg Rutherford, a former Olympic long jumper and father of two. It instills in kids a positive link with fitness.

Make sport a normal part of life
A buggy is the fastest way to get a child from A to B, but if you make the time to walk or scoot, you will all benefit, says Roberts. Roberts also advises keeping youngsters active in daily life. When they are older, they won’t hesitate to ride their bikes if they wish to see their pals. It is supported by study that was published in the Sport Journal and demonstrated a positive correlation between early childhood physical activity and adolescent physical fitness.

Focus on praise rather than improvement
Roberts asserts that praise is crucial. Steph Houghton, a former captain and current football player for England, claims that she still requires “that little amount of praise to feel acknowledged for the effort and passion I offer.”

It is also, Roberts says, about focusing on “them putting the energy in and their willingness to learn”. The former Olympic cyclist and father of two Chris Hoy agrees: “At my son’s first taekwondo competition he lost, but he was still incredibly proud that he’d tried. We tell him, ‘Don’t worry about other people; you weren’t the best that day, but you’re better than you were a week ago, and you’re having fun.’”

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Primary school age

Try as many different sports as you can
Expose kids to as many activities as you can right now. Hoy, Rutherford, and Houghton all shared the same experience. According to Houghton, “my parents wanted me to do different things for different reasons.” Football was about being competitive and working as a team, but taekwondo was about respect and discipline. Children will discover something they like through exposure and will stick with it.

Get involved yourself

It is insufficient to simply sign them up and drop them off. Involved parents “create healthy behavioral examples, so exercising becomes the norm in that family,” according to Roberts. This was true for Rebecca Adlington, a swimmer. We were a busy family and would frequently go out on the weekends, she explains. “Having that lifestyle had a significant effect on me,”

Dad Rutherford “worked hard hours as a builder, but he would always play football with me – that was our moment to connect” when Rutherford was a child. Johanna Konta, a former British tennis No. 1 player, has happy recollections of going for early runs with her father. “We’d sprint to the peak of this cliff-side golf course in time for sunrise. That had a significant impact.

Roberts emphasizes that both parents participate: “Unfortunately, in typical heterosexual family groups, the guy will typically set the example for sport and exercise. It’s crucial that both parents contribute equally.

Make it a treat, not a task

Although it’s simple for grownups to believe they must exercise, they could instead think of a bike ride or ten minutes of keepy-uppy as a reward. As Hoy puts it, “sport was a reward.” “I could visit the BMX track if my grades were good. If a child doesn’t find sports enjoyable, they should keep trying. They should merely go for a stroll, ride a bike, or bounce on a trampoline because nobody ever frowns while doing that.

Making activity a part of daily life is something Roberts advises: “Don’t make it a ring-fenced task; it’s a reward, a method to get there, or an opportunity to socialize.”

Find their passion, not yours

According to Roberts, “Parents frequently utilize their children as outlets for ambitions they didn’t achieve.” However, the child’s voice must be heard. Rutherford concurs: “I won’t push my kids into sports just because I like it; I’ll encourage them if they choose to attempt it in the future.” Adlington ultimately set world records in a sport that her parents weren’t enthusiastic about.

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Talking to your kids about their interests will help you “foster them in that path, since they’ll get more thrill from it,” Hoy suggests. “Kids being dragged over the country to race, then quitting as soon as they were old enough to make their own judgments,” he recalled. I’ve never lost my love for riding a bike, which is the main reason I still do it.

Teenage Footballers

Teenagers

Help them overcome disappointments

For kids of this age, sports frequently grow more competitive, and a bad sporting experience can turn a youngster off. For Roberts, the goal is to highlight the positives while putting an emphasis on effort and development.

The journey home used to make things better for Hoy. I would be quiet and cranky after a competition that didn’t go well, but my father never forced the subject; instead, he waited until I spoke before asking, “Why do you believe it happened? “… A brief conversation with my dad never made me feel particularly depressed. Similar to Adlington, Adlington’s parents would give him space and then have a conversation with him when he was ready. “I would become annoyed or go quiet, but my parents would give me room,” Adlington said.

“Encouraging students to think and explain that everyone experiences failures, even the most successful athletes,” adds Roberts I had a lot more bad days than good, Rutherford admits.

Manage puberty

43 percent of girls who once considered themselves sporty stop participating in sports when they reach secondary school age, according to research by the Women in Sport organization. For girls, periods, hormonal breakouts, and changing bodies continue to be important issues.

In her teen years, Adlington recalls feeling self-conscious because “I was much larger than the other females. It was difficult because I had spots as well. Her solution was to concentrate on her body’s capabilities rather than its appearance: “Swimming gave me confidence because I was good at it.”

Everybody experiences discomfort and even feelings of being “grossed out by themselves,” according to Konta, but it’s crucial to emphasize that these feelings are temporary.

Roberts advises discussing periods when it comes to menstruation. When Konta first started her period, she used to wear black shorts, but in her mid-20s, she developed a new attitude: “I thought, if I bleed through when I’m wearing white, so be it.”

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Boys frequently experience issues with varied speeds of growth. With a youngster “who was 6ft 2in with a moustache, so physically I was getting smashed,” Hoy recalls playing rugby at the age of 14. He learned from the event that “everyone develops at various paces. Although it may seem like you’re going backwards, by the time everyone reaches the age of 18 or 19, things level off.

Let them be teenagers
Give them a break; being a teen is hard. We do them a disservice by prohibiting them from attending parties due to training, claims Roberts. It’s crucial to have typical teenage experiences, concurs Houghton. But, she adds, “you have to make compromises if you really want to do something right. My parents understood that I needed a period of time to mature and discover who I was, but if there was practice Sunday morning, there was no way my dad would leave me out late on Saturday. I doubt I would have been as successful as I have been if I had attempted to make those judgments without their assistance. The key is maintaining balance.

Let them quit if they want to

Accept if your child decides to discontinue playing a particular sport since, according to Roberts, “at this age, their rising autonomy is incredibly crucial.” When Hoy was 14 years old, he told his father that BMX was no longer fun: “He said it was fine. After I informed him I was interested in trying mountain biking, the two of us rented bikes. I might never have been able to ride a bike again if he had simply pushed me.

Additionally, Houghton was permitted to give up a sport. “I didn’t have the same passion for taekwondo, so I told my parents I wanted to focus on football,” he said. They recognized that I had given it everything I had.