How to make your children play sports for life | Physical aptitude

FNew parents go as far as Richard Williams, who began guiding his daughters Venus and Serena to Wimbledon glory by writing an 85-page plan and coaching them on the public tennis courts of Compton, Los Angeles, every morning before Wimbledon. to start school. For the rest of us, moms and dads can still play a crucial role in fostering a love of sports and exercise in their children from a young age.

“Parents and guardians play an absolutely critical role in introducing children to sport, with their encouragement behind the child’s persistence and progress,” says Claire-Marie Roberts, psychologist and head of coach development at the Premier League. . All kids benefit physically, emotionally, and socially from being active, so here’s how to get them moving.


Get started as early as possible, but focus on the fun
“Getting kids involved in activities as early as possible sets a pattern…you can’t start too early,” says Roberts. For babies, root him in fun by going to the park, pool, or soft play center. Greg Rutherford, former Olympic long jumper and father of two, agrees: “Throwing and catching is great for developing hand-eye coordination, and we invented silly games, like getting pots and pans out and trying to throw a ball at them. It gives kids a healthy association with physical exercise.”

Make sport a normal part of life
Roberts also recommends keeping kids active in daily life: “A stroller is the most convenient way to get a child from A to B, but if you take the time to walk or skateboard, everyone will reap the benefits.” When they are older, if they want to see their friends, they will not think about riding a bicycle. It is confirmed in research published in Sport Journal, which found that physical activity in early childhood is positively correlated with physical fitness in adolescence.

Focus on praise instead of improvement
“Praise is important,” says Roberts. Even now, former England captain and footballer Steph Houghton says she needs “that little bit of praise to feel appreciated for the commitment and intensity I bring.”

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

primary school age

Try as many different sports as you can
Now is the time to expose children to as many activities as possible. It is exactly what Hoy, Rutherford and Houghton experienced. “My parents wanted me to try different things for different reasons,” says Houghton. “So taekwondo was about discipline and respect; football is about being competitive and working as a team.” Through exposure, children will find something they enjoy and stick with it.

get involved yourself
Signing them up and leaving them is not enough. If parents are actively involved, “it sets positive role models, so exercise becomes the norm in that family,” says Roberts. This was the case for the family of swimmer Rebecca Adlington. “We were an active family, always away from home on the weekends,” she says. “Having that lifestyle definitely had a big impact on me.”

When Rutherford was a boy, his father “worked long hours as a builder, but he would always play football with me, it was our chance to connect.” Former British tennis number 1 Johanna Konta has fond memories of going for a morning run with her father. “We were running to the top of this golf course on the edge of a cliff in time for sunrise. That left a big impression.”

Roberts emphasizes that both parents are involved: “Unfortunately, in normative heterosexual family units, it is usually the male who is the role model in sports and exercise. It is very important that both parents do this equally.”

Make it a pleasure, not a chore
As adults, it’s easy to think to have exercise, but change the language and make a bike ride or 10 minutes of physical activity a pleasure. “Sport was a reward,” says Hoy. “If my grades were good, I could go to the BMX track. If a child doesn’t find the sport fun, keep trying; just go for a walk, bike ride or jump on a trampoline; you’ll never see anyone frowning on a trampoline.”

Roberts suggests integrating activity into daily life: “Don’t make it a limited task; it is a delight, a means to get somewhere or a way to socialize.”

Find their passion, not yours
“Parents often use their children as an outlet for dreams they didn’t achieve,” says Roberts. “But the child’s voice needs to be heard.” Rutherford agrees: “If my kids want to try track and field in the future, I’ll encourage them, but I won’t force them just because I like it.” Adlington ended up breaking world records in a sport his parents weren’t interested in.

Hoy advises talking to your kids about what they enjoy “and then steer them in that direction, because they’ll get more excited.” He recalls that “children were dragged across the country to participate in races and quit as soon as they were old enough to make their own decisions. The main reason I keep riding my bike is that I never lost my love for it.”

teenage soccer players


Help them overcome disappointments
Sport often becomes more competitive for this age group, and one bad experience can turn a child off. For Roberts, the idea is to identify the positives, focusing on effort and improvement.

For Today, the drive home used to change things. “If a competition hadn’t gone well, I’d be quiet and sulky, but Dad never pushed the issue, he waited until I started talking and was like, ‘Why do you think that happened?’ … I never really felt down after a little talk with my dad.” Adlington’s parents took a similar approach: “I would tease or shut up, but my parents would give me space and talk to me when I was ready.”

Roberts says to “encourage children to reflect and explain that everyone experiences disappointment, including the most successful athletes.” Rutherford agrees: “I had a lot more bad days than good days.”

manage puberty
Research by the Women in Sport charity has found that 43% of girls once considered sporty retire from sport by high school age. Body changes, hormonal surges and periods are still a major problem for girls.

Adlington remembers being shy as a teenager: “I was a lot heavier than the other girls. I also suffered from spots, so it wasn’t always easy.” She overcame this by focusing on what her body could do, rather than what she looked like: “Swimming gave me confidence because she was good at it.”

Konta recommends normalizing discomfort and even feeling “disgusted by yourself, everyone goes through that, but it’s important to explain that it’s not permanent.”

When it comes to periods, Roberts recommends talking about it. Konta says she used to wear black shorts when she was on her period, but in her mid-20s she changed his mind: “I thought, if I bleed when I’m wearing white, so be it.”

For children, a common problem is the different rates of development. He today recalls playing rugby at age 14 against a boy “who was 6ft 2in with a mustache so he was physically being beaten up.” The experience taught him a lesson: “Everyone develops at different rates. You can feel like you’re going backwards, but it levels off when everyone gets to 18 or 19.”

let them be teenagers
Being a teenager is hard, so give them some slack. “By not letting them go to parties because of training, we’re doing them a disservice,” says Roberts. Houghton agrees: “It’s important to have normal teenage experiences.” But, she tells her, “if you really want to do something well, you have to make sacrifices. My parents saw that I needed a period where I grew up and learned who I was, but if there was training on Sunday morning, there was no way my dad would let me go out on Saturday night! If I had tried to make those decisions without them, I probably wouldn’t have been as successful as I have been. It’s about balance.”

let them go if they want
“At this age, their growing autonomy is really important,” says Roberts, so accept it if your child wants to quit a certain sport. At 14, Hoy told his father that he no longer enjoyed BMX: “He said he was fine. I told him I wanted to try mountain biking, so we rented bikes together. He could have pushed me and that could have been enough for me to never ride a bike again.”

Houghton was also allowed to drop a sport: “I didn’t have the same drive for taekwondo, so I told my mom and dad that I wanted to focus on football. I gave him everything I could, and they respected it.”

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