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Webinar replay: Setting our kids up for success and what it takes to be a Good Sports parent

Logistics, money, support, act like this, cheer like that, cut the oranges, wash the bibs, say this, don’t say that. As a sports parent, its often hard to know where to start to put your best foot forward.  

In this webinar, Kelly Curr, Sport New Zealand, hosts special guests Simone Spencer (Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation) and Toni & Craig Hoskin, parents of Olympic Canoeist, Alicia Hoskin.  

Viewers will hear an enlightening discussion about what we can do to be a great sports parent, and ultimately set our kids up for success in and through sport. 

What will you learn? 

  • What research tells us about why children and young people play sport, and what this means in practice for parents? 
  • About the Climate of Development, and how you can use this as a framework for better decision-making as a parent while in the thick of the youth sport landscape. 
  • Advice from experienced parents on how to continue to have great relationships with your children in and through sport. 

Key Takeaways 

1 | What is fun in youth sports? 

You will struggle to find someone who would disagree with ‘fun’ being an important part of why young people play sport. However, defining what fun is, and what it means to different people can be a challenge.  Amanda Visek and colleagues wrote in a 2015 research paper

“At present, fun remains a relatively elusive concept. Limited efforts have been made to characterize and quantify fun in youth sport and there is no consensus of its meaning in the literature. For instance, relatively few studies have attempted to identify specific factors that comprise fun in youth sports.” 

Visek et al’s research into fun in youth sport, offers some important takeaways for parents and others involved in supporting young people in sport.  

  • There are many dimensions to what constitutes fun for young people (Visek identified 81 different determinants of fun in youth sport) 
  • The relevant weight a young person places on what constitutes fun, changes from child to child. 

To help adults supporting youth sport experiences (parents, coaches, teachers, administrators, etc) Visek and her colleagues developed Fun Maps. These Fun Maps conceptualise 81 different ‘determinants’ of fun, which can be further categorised into 11 ‘dimensions’: 

Importantly, Visek identified that the Youth Sport Ethos – the three most important dimensions of fun relevant to other dimensions. These are:  

  • Being a good sport  
  • Trying hard  
  • Positive coaching  

Visek proclaims that these “three dimensions [are] paramount for maximising fun experiences in practices and games”.  

What does this mean for parents?   

Review the Fun Map below and consider what determinants align most with your child’s motivation for playing sport. Reflect on how this lines up with the sporting experiences that your child has or could have. Perhaps there are things you are already doing which enable some or lots of the determinants below. Are there other things you have control over that you could change or improve? 

Read more: Visek et el (2015). The Fun Integration Theory: Towards Sustaining Children and Adolescents Sport Participation 

Read more: What can a great All Black teach us about fun? 

2 | Reflections from Craig and Toni on their sports parenting journey 

Understanding how to support each of their daughters (and their differences) 

Craig and Toni spoke about the importance of recognising that while there were similarities in their daughters, the were some slight differences between what motivated them to play sport. 

  • Overall, friends were important for both girls, but particularly so for Courtney – “she was the one who would make sure the end of year functions would happen… the highlights of regattas for her would be knucklebones, food, the Kmart visit, and then the races”. 
  • For Alicia, “mastering the skills, finding out what her limits were, getting into it and finding out how good am I at this” seemed to be what pushed her buttons. “We just wanted to grow great girls – physically able, socially able, culturally aware, that whole package” 
  • It was also important for Alicia to involved in the process and be a part of decision making.  

For parents, learning about what motivates your child or children is important, as this informs how you can best support them with their sport. It’s also an ongoing process, as this could change for young people over time. 

Read: Parent’s: Time to talk about your child’s why 

Craig and Toni retold the story of when Alicia won a national competition competing up an age group, and in the same race bet her older sister, Courtney. Unsurprisingly this created in interesting dynamic for both Courtney and Alicia. Toni and Craig shared how this was a pivotal moment, which as parents, they responded by taking a lot of time to help their daughters to each think about their own why – “Why do you love kayaking?”. 

Exposure to a variety of sport growing up 

At the beginning of their daughters’ sporting journeys, Toni and Craig wanted their daughters to play a team sport. From there, their daughters were supported to follow their interests and by virtue played a variety of sports. Interestingly, Toni reflected on the fact that Courtney wanted to play ‘every sport’ at which point they had to parent in the ‘V’ and provide some boundaries around how many sports Courtney could play at one time. 

Read: The value of variety 

The importance of volunteering and service to your communities 

“For you to be benefit from the experience of sport, you are benefiting from the service of others, because most sports a volunteer based… so if you are in sport, you will and should give back.. being involved in sport is bigger than just competing”. 

Craig discussed how volunteering and serving their communities was an important element for their daughters’ development. In particular, Craig believed that those who benefit from sport (based on the support of volunteers) have a responsibility to volunteer and give back themselves.  

Role modelling emotional control and helping their daughters to process disappointment and success 

“This is something you do, not who you are… Who you are is how you process that disappointment, and conversely how you process success”. 

Helping their daughters to process disappointment and success that comes from sport was something the Hoskins put a lot of emphasis on in their role as sport parents. 

Sport provides a great context for young people to learn about emotional control. Naturally, sport and competition create emotive states of being, so opportunities are a bound for young people to be exposed to such states. Here, parents (and coaches), have an opportunity to help young people develop by learning how to respond to these emotive states (disappointment, jubilation, anger, frustration, etc) in constructive ways.  

On a related note, these moments can also be framed as ‘teachable moments’ for young people. The hard part for parents is working out the best approach/es responding as a parent to these moments to best support your child or children. Some interplaying factors to consider here include: 

  • The timing between an event and when to respond as a parent 
  • Approaches to communication (e.g. prompting reflection verses providing direct feedback) 
  • The goal of the ‘teaching’, is it about the sport, is it about something more holistic? 

While the above factors will shift pending child, context and parents (and parents are best positioned to think about how to best support their child / children), ultimately, parents taking the time to reflect on above will put them in good steed to support their children and help their children to get the most out of sport. 

One significant approach that Toni and Craig discussed was to downplay results and focus on stories. 

Downplaying results and focusing on stories 

Toni and Craig talked about how they reflected carefully on how results were celebrated. Results were treated from position of humility. Importantly, outcomes weren’t the only thing celebrated. Rather there was a lot of emphasis on doing your best and being respectful of other. Craig spoke about a family tradition where they needed to share a highlight of the week with each other. 

One important tactic that Craig and Toni used was their approach to discussing sport in the car ride home. Their daughters (and anyone else along for the ride) had to share a story about their experience that couldn’t be about the result – “Tell me about the race, not the result”. Craig believed by deemphasising the result, you provide space to emphasise other elements in the sport experience, which in turn allow people to reflect on and connect with some of the more intangible and intrinsic reasons they might get joy from sport.  

3 | The Good Sports Spine 

The Good Sports Spine is a sense making tool to help adults understand how they impact children’s sport experiences. 

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