Sport is great for kids and an integral part of Australian culture, but many children simply haven’t been able to play during the pandemic.
New research shows half of Australian children have been playing less organized sport due to COVID-19. Costs, the risk of catching COVID-19 and frequent disruptions were cited as one of the main reasons for the drop in numbers.
However, the benefits of community sport are widely recognised, with a positive impact on children’s self-esteem, social skills and mental well-being.
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ANU analysis reveals children’s mental health has deteriorated significantly over the past two years, with more than 60% of parents reporting worsening mental health problems in their children. Meanwhile, a University of Sydney study also found that children in NSW have low overall competence in fundamental motor skills, which are linked to poorer health outcomes later in life.
So how do we motivate our kids to get back into community sport – or try it for the first time? Here are some things to consider.
1. Find a sport they like
Now that we are finally starting to emerge from lockdowns and restrictions, getting kids back into sport is vital.
For children who have lost their self-confidence, try a new and different sport can sometimes be a more effective approach. While various codes of football, basketball, netball and cricket remain the most prominent sports, there are hundreds of different types of physical activity that children can participate in.
Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were all introduced for the Tokyo Olympics. Breakdancing/breakdancing is set to make its Olympic debut at Paris 2024, and flag football, cricket and women’s softball are on offer for the 2028 games in Los Angeles.
Judo and paddling – which includes canoe polo – have recently been added to the school sports curriculum. And for kids who love Harry Potter, Australia even has its own quidditch association.
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In addition to school activities, school holiday sports programs can be a great way for kids to try out different sports for a few days or a week and see what they like, without having to buy all the equipment at school. ‘advance.
Some children thrive in team sports like cricket and netball, while others prefer more individual activities like gymnastics and swimming. For children identified as “sport resistant”, initially focusing on non-competitive sports may be more effective.
2. Use role models
Australia’s great performance at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics has put a new generation of young athletes in the spotlight. Gold medalist swimmers Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell, canoeist Jessica Fox, basketball player Ellie Cole, BMXer Logan Martin, rower Alexander Purnell and sailor Mat Belcher are just a few of the success stories that will inspire the next cohort of young athletes.
Children are more likely to be inspired by role models close to their age. Successful young athletes sharing their stories inspire and encourage children to try different sports for themselves.
As Australia’s Clearinghouse for Sport observes, “You can’t be what you can’t see…the value of role models and role model programs lies in their ability to demonstrate diversity, inclusion and encourage preferred behaviors.
A Football Association study of the influence of elite sport stars on girls found that female player appearances sparked interest in the game and inspired girls to believe they could succeed in football, validating thus their participation in the game.
3. Attract more volunteers
Volunteers are also essential for community sport – to organize, coach and officiate games. However, with team activities canceled and tournaments postponed, many volunteers have moved away during the pandemic. To get kids back into sport, we also need volunteers.
Have actively interested parents and being able to help can be motivating for children and make small games feel very important.
Volunteering should be facilitated. Many club organizers and managers devote hours of their time to tasks such as administration and seeking payments from members.
Using technology to better organize squads and training, organize matches and tournaments with other clubs and collect payments, eliminates a lot of headaches and ensures that people are more likely to sign up for a role and get involved.
Of course, children aren’t the only ones who benefit from sport – adults also need more encouragement to exercise.
According to Sport Australia, most Australians do not meet physical activity guidelines for their age, with teenagers the least likely to achieve their 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
With our exceptional climate, wide open spaces, national parks, beaches and swimming pools, parents and children have every chance to get outside and be more active this year.
Sam Walch is CEO PlayHQ
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