"My child is bad at sports!"
CONTINUING from the previous part of a story on team sports and tweens (primary school ages), sports educators and former top sports persons in this concluding part share their views on the areas in which parents can support and encourage their child in team sports participation.
Mr A Saravana Pillai - former physical education teacher, current 1,500m national record Holder (A Division), on post-graduate studies.
Ms Jean Sng - physical education teacher, former national netball player.
Professor Ian R Haslam - experienced Canadian sports educator who has taught in various universities in the US and Canada, and also at NTU-NIE, and is currently Vice-Chancellor of Emirates College for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi.
What should I do if my child plays badly?
Saravana: This is not an emergency. Firstly, be a pillar of support. Don't treat the child like a professional and put his morale down. If you have been following your child, you would probably know why he is playing badly. In this respect, speak to the coach to understand why your child is performing badly.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Is your perspective one-sided?
- Are you expecting the child to play at your level of expectation? In doing so are you being FAIR to the child?
If the child is generally playing badly, there could be a few reasons:
- Is the child playing in the parent's interest or his/her interest?
- Technically not sound, so the child needs more training to hone this aspect.
- Needs to take it at a slower pace.
- The child may be pegged at a higher level where he/she is not ready to cope with the demands of the game. This may relate to the child playing badly because the goal is not achievable.
- The child is not confident or has a phobia of handling the stress he/she is in (eg. intrinsically / extrinsically).
- Maybe he or she is not playing in the right role. If so, need to speak to the coach to address this situation.
- He or she may not be appropriate for this game but may excel in another.
Jean: Encourage and support the child. Practise together with the child to polish up skills if necessary and provide a listening ear to them to understand how they are doing in the sport and what could be the cause of it.
Prof Ian: I would ask my children if they had fun. Then I would ask them if they feel they tried their hardest and if both answers were 'yes', then no problem, mission accomplished!
How can parents support their children in team sports?
Saravana: Basically, winning and losing is a part of sports. That is just one aspect of it. Far beyond that are values, namely resilience, mental grit, determination and perseverance. Importantly also, is the issue of health, as the saying goes, a sound mind goes with a sound body. In today's competitive and stressful lifestyle, team sports help to de-stress the child. When the child is fit and healthy he/she is able to cope with stress in a better fashion and this also helps them to focus on their work. In today's reality of the virtual world of games, there is a lack of social interaction and active participation.
Team sports overcome this and helps to promote interaction regardless of social and economic barriers. It gives them the opportunity to explore their diverse talents, work together as teams, and learn life skills that promote social-emotional growth. Lastly, it would help them to discover the strengths of their hearts, stamina of their bodies and the perseverance of their spirits.
Jean: Parents can be involved physically for the practices or competitions to show their support. Having knowledge of the sport and speaking the same 'lingo' as the coach/teacher to the child is a great boost, as well as getting to knowing his/her team mates or coach.
My child just started playing a sport. Now he wants to quit. Should I let him?
Saravana: It depends on the child's intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in why he is doing a particular sport. Ascertain that he is not running away from issues or perhaps he might be wanting an easy way out (not willing to go through the rigours of training). As long you are able to understand why your child wants to quit, whether he can justify the need for it, and if you think it is valid, then it should not be a problem.
Jean: Understand why he is quitting in the first place. It could be because:
- the training is very tiring and tough.
- he is not getting enough attention from the coach or perhaps too much (!).
- maybe his best friends are not in the team.
Whatever the reason is, parents should not allow quitting as an option too quickly and easily. We should teach them that to be good in sports or to overcome any obstacles ahead of them, be it in studies or sport, there must be a certain level of commitment and perserverance and hardwork to realise his or her potential. Simply quitting without a valid reason is a form of weakness.
Prof Ian: Ask him why he wants to quit. If a child doesn't like team sports, he or she might like an individual sport. If they still want to quit, give them some time off to ponder over their decision.
Other articles on sports & wellbeing