Making Kids Welcome in Sport


In the TV business, the old saying goes “Never work with children or animals” but when it comes to sports coaching and children, experience has taught me the key is to be well prepared. While you have to be constantly on your toes, some little tricks can make life a lot easier and the beauty is every time I go out I learn something new.

Most kids of this age are cautious when thrown into a new environment, especially young girls in sport. Those jitters can be infectious so it’s obviously important to put them at ease as quickly as possible. On day one, I find addressing the arriving child rather than their parent helps connect with them from the start. I try to introduce myself and ask them their name. In each of our camps, the 40 registered girls were split into 3 groups, pretty evenly spread between 5 year olds, 6 year olds and 7/8 year olds. We had a name badge for them on arrival, coloured pink for the 5 year olds, orange for the 6 year olds and blue for the oldest group. With this age range, I feel an important but easy way to connect with them and put them at ease is to use their name frequently while coaching.The name badges allowed me to do that from day one. It also makes life easier for the less frequent coaches over the course of the three weeks. We can move the groups en masse from one session to another by directing them as the pink, orange or blue group.

Another useful trick I find is to leave our fun equipment and footballs available as kids will naturally gravitate towards them on arrival and begin to play themselves. One of the interesting things I observed over the last few weeks, was how the girls enjoy “free time”. They played their own games and enjoyed that freedom. I had seven or eight random play items such as a set of boules, hula hoops, a skipping rope, a parachute, a tennis racquet and trainer ball on string, which at some points I left out for them to pick from. I helped explain how to use them but didn’t instruct them as such. I ask my own daughter Emma (aged 6) at the end of each day what was her favourite and least favourite bit (good to have feedback from an insider!). The free play was her favourite part of that day. It brought it home to me that kids nowadays have few opportunities or venues to self-play together in groups where they decide what they want to do. On another day, during a short break the girls themselves initiated an impromptu game of Bulldog, which I hadn’t heard of in 30 years ! Anyone else remember the days when you were allowed run and fall over in the schoolyard ?!

One last trick that I find works well is an ink liquid timer. I picked this idea up from, a blog written by a primary school teacher with some great tips for managing children. I find girls sometimes wander over to you during sport and say something along the lines of ” my tummy’s sore” or ” I don’t want to play anymore” or they might be upset after getting a knock from a ball or playing partner. I encourage them to sit down, turn the timer upside down and watch the ink bubbles fall. It’s very therapeutic and distracts attention away from any little upsets. When the 3 minutes are up, the child invariably is happy to return to the action. It’s like a friendly time-out and helps to keep girls fully involved while at sport. Every home should have one !

3 days left in O’Connells so hopefully the weather holds for us ! Speak soon


1 Reply to "Making Kids Welcome in Sport"

  • comment-avatar
    August 27, 2014 (12:20 pm)

    This is a great. I appreciate your tips on how to ease children into playing sports without putting pressure on them that might deter from their enjoyment and love of the game. My son absolutely needs to go slowly and find his own way. Thanks for subscribing to Confident Parents, Confident Kids. I look forward to your future posts!

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