Attract and engage kids in organised sport
With sporting club sign-on days in full swing and a vast array of local sports to choose from, we caught up with some local experts who are in ‘the game’ to ask about how to get kids involved and encourage them to keep playing.
“Kids want to feel reasonably skilled when they play a sport, and if they feel awkward or klutzy, they give up” – Andrew Bligh
Andrew Bligh, who is chief executive officer of the North Queensland Sports Foundation – an organisation that seeks to maximise sporting participation – says team sports are a great way for kids to get active. But he adds – while Australia is a sporting nation and sport is an integral part of our national identity – the challenge is keeping youngsters engaged.
“There’s a large number of Australian children and young people (64%-85%) who participate in some form of organised sport or activity, but almost 60% will quit by the time they are 15. What’s worse – they’ll quit permanently. As in, they’ll never play that sport again.”
Andrew says the key to kids sticking at a sport is simple – they want to have fun. They don’t care about learning about cooperation, winning and losing and all those other great moral lessons. If it’s not enjoyable or they feel awkward, they simply won’t go.
“Nobody likes to feel they’re all elbows and thumbs, especially when they’re around their peers,” says Andrew. “Kids want to feel reasonably skilled when they play a sport, and if they feel awkward or klutzy, they give up. Confidence and competence come from physical literacy and this is developed by getting a good grounding in basic movement skills.”
“If your sporting club is not a friendly, fun place that kids want to be at then they will find somewhere else or some other sport that will be” – Sam Bradshaw
He says this is something that Tennis Australia has done particularly well, creating specific programs to develop children’s physical literacy and continuing to build upon these movement skills as they grow older. Tennis Queensland community tennis officer Sam Bradshaw says programs like the ANZ HotShots [modified version of tennis for kids] and the National School Partnership Program [getting schools involved to ultimately channel kids into community clubs] offer good development pathways for kids in the Townsville region.
“They help to make tennis cool again and something that kids want to play and be a part of,” Sam explains.
There are about 600 kids attending regular classes at the three tennis clubs in Townsville (Western Suburbs, Kalynda Chase and Tennis Townsville) and coaches have given 1500 kids a tennis experience in their school over the past six months.
Sam says part of the reason for the sport’s success is engaging parents, as well as kids.
“The car ride home is an important time for kids to sit and just let the game sink in. If you want to be supportive, ask them to tell you one thing that was fun about the game” – Andrew Bligh
“Some clubs have adults’ lessons on at the same time as kids’ lessons, or courts available for adults to play at the same time as their kids,” he explains. “This is great, especially in the fast-paced culture we now live in where everyone seems to be time poor.
“With the emergence of computer games, tablets and other technology, tennis gives parents a chance to spend time with their kids while exercising and staying active.”
He says evolving to meet demand is crucial for all local sporting clubs to remain attractive and relevant to juniors, and keep them playing into the future.
“Sporting clubs absolutely have a role to play in engaging kids and evolving – if your sporting club is not a friendly, fun place that kids want to be at then they will find somewhere else or some other sport that will be,” says Sam. “We should strive to give the club a family feel and give kids a sense of belonging and being a part of something.”
Andrew says parents also have an extremely crucial role to play in keeping their kids in the game. From avoiding being that person who gets a little too enthusiastic on the sidelines, to knowing what to say in the car ride home when your child is upset that they didn’t play well, kids notice how you react.
“According to Peter Gahan, head of coach development at Baseball Australia, kids know whether or not they’ve played well. Going over the game again, or getting into what they could or should have done differently really won’t help them,” Andrew says.
“The car ride home is an important time for kids to sit and just let the game sink in. If you want to be supportive, ask them to tell you one thing that was fun about the game (especially if they lost), or better yet, try: ‘I loved watching you play out there’. The things we say make a difference and kids learn lifelong lessons from sport.”
If you’d like to get your kids involved in playing sport this year, check out our Events Calendar for some of the 2015 Sign On Days.
Pssst: Are you a Sporting Club? You can add your Sign On or Come Try Day for free.
Families that need financial help to get kids involved in sport can access Queensland Sport & Recreation’s Get Started grants from Wednesday, January 28, 2015.
This program provides eligible children and young people aged five to 18 who can least afford to join a sport or recreation club with a voucher valued at up to $150 for membership and/or registration fees.
For more information about participating clubs in the region, fact sheets and eligibility, see here: http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/funding/getinthegame/voucher-application.html