What a year 2021 has been for sporting organisations, coaches and parents. No one could have predicted what we have all been through and there were certainly times where we were all lost as we struggled to come to terms with a different form of normality.
Although there is still some way to go, I sincerely hope that we have some light at the end of the tunnel and once we navigate this initial period in the New Year that we can look forward to our sporting programmes returning with renewed vigour later in the year.
The time away from our normal routines and procedures has certainly brought about plenty of reflection time and I am sure that when we return to our programmes that we will keep some of the positive things that we have potentially learnt or changed during the pandemic. It has certainly allowed the ‘Reset’ button to be hit and there is no doubting that adapted ways of doing things have also provided more efficient and user friendly methods than we maybe would have used in the past.
I did enjoy someone telling me that, ‘until a few months ago I thought that zoom was an ice lolly.’
One thing that has not changed is how important the role of the parent is in a young persons life as on the whole they remain most influential character in their lives, an untapped resource and ally in many sporting environments for clubs and coaches.
Parents have been superheroes during all of the lockdowns, managing their own commitments, keeping their children safe and having to take on all the roles often fulfilled by other people including teaching, coaching and setting up the exercise routines at home.
With a fear in some sports that we may have lost a number of young people from their sport as they have now had the opportunity to try other things and perhaps have got out of the habit or even realised that there are other things that they would rather do with their time, it is more important than ever that the environments we create around our sporting experiences are positive, inclusive of everyone and really engaging.
Some of the key ingredients for this include better facilities, high quality coaching and an environment around the experience that allows young people to thrive and develop individually both on and off the field. The final point certainly requires the help and support of parents.
We have seen huge strides taken by sporting organisations over the last few years to foster a more positive relationship with parents, recognising the importance of their role and finding new and innovative ways of sharing information with them as well as providing much more support in order to give parents the best chance of motivating, supporting and managing their children’s sporting experience so that it is a positive environment for all.
The tragic stories coming out of sport such as the gymnastics in the USA shows that we cannot rest on our laurels, leadership in sporting environments needs to be strong and effective, promoting transparent environments that encourage parents to be a key part in the process.
As a coach myself, I understand the fear of coaches that if we open the door to much that parents will start to become overly involved which actually is not healthy for anyone. However this can be averted by having a well thought out communication policy and a set of expectations that everyone buys into before any season or programme gets underway, along with continued dialogue throughout the sporting journey.
In an ideal world, we will have environments where sporting organisations are creating a positive parent culture, children are taking ownership of their sporting experience, coaches are delivering highly effective and engaging sessions and there is an understanding from parents of their role and what is going on throughout the process bound together by everyone working in harmony in the best interests of the child.
This may be a big wish and is very much a work in progress but having been through everything we have, I have such optimism for the sporting world in 2022. We look forward to playing a small part in ensuring that sport and physical activity is enjoyed by all parties and continues to provide inspiration for the next generation of children.
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