Tournament Week Support - Message to Parents from School Sport NZ

For the second year in a row, winter sport has been disrupted by the Covid-19 alert level changes. There is no doubt that young people will be feeling disappointed with sport being put on pause for now.

Parents can’t erase the disappointment their children feel, particularly where seasons have ended abruptly or events have been cancelled, but there are ways they can support them through this disappointment. 

For some young people, they were gearing up to participate in the apex of their season with Secondary School winter tournament week scheduled to start in the next couple of weeks. And for most, the final weeks of the regular season were approaching.

Learning how to process disappointment is a life skill and communication is key. Verbalising feelings and acknowledging disappointment helps young people work through the range of emotions they will likely feel and provides important support as they do this. Initiating an open conversation when there are no distractions and you’re alone together can be a helpful way for young people to process their feelings.

Remember to:

  • Be open to talking about their feelings
  • Let them open up at their own pace
  • Listen to them without adding your own judgement

If they don’t want to talk to you, don’t take it personally and let them know that you’re there for them if they do want to talk. They might also feel more comfortable talking to someone else about it, so you could suggest they call their coach or a teammate for a chat.

There are a number of tools and resources available for parents that can support conversations with young people. Some of the strategies that have emerged from Positive Coaching Alliance to help parents support young players socially and emotionally during lockdowns include:

  • Set up routines to help normalise the situation as much as possible (skill practices or free play in place of team trainings after school)
  • If it allows, play with your child in the sport of their choice in the backyard or driveway, or practice certain skills and drills within the home if possible.
  • Remind your child what has been achieved – shifting the focus away from outcomes and reflecting on the learnings and the journey through their season.

An episode in the podcast series “Ive got a question…” by Pio Terei and Kathryn Berkett, they discuss resilience and how we build it in adolescents through a kiwi lens and has real relevance to the current disappointment many young people may be feeling right now.

And while there are significant challenges and obvious disappointments as a result of the cancellations and postponements, opportunities and new ideas start to emerge.  

  1. While there’s a break in the sport calendar, there’s a great opportunity for parents to reintroduce free play. Gone for now are the never-ending hectic sports schedules while eating dinner in the car. With organised sports on hold, take advantage of this time by encouraging your child to creatively enjoy practicing and playing sports (within the context of lockdown regulations). Let kids play on their own terms.
  2. Re-examine your own balance with sports – and that of your child’s. This is a good time to reflect, talk to your child and think about what they’re getting out of the sports they’re playing. Is your child having the best experience possible? Have you followed your child’s lead and asked what he or she wants? Read more about understanding your child’s why in this Balance is Better article.
  3. Take time to reflect on the role you play in your childs sporting experience. Parents play a critical role in supporting young people’s sport experience whether that’s as a supporter, coach, volunteering to help the team or getting players to and from games and tournaments. With this pause in the season, take some time to consider what you did this season and what, if anything you might try and do differently moving in summer sport and for winter sport next year. As we get through these Covid-19 restrictions and the summer season gets closer to starting, we’ll be sharing a range of resources to get back into sport through the #seasonready promotion, keep an eye out!

Remember that you are a role model for your kids. They’ll have hope if they see you talking your problems through and moving forward again. They’ll grow up knowing that challenges can be overcome and disappointment can be resolved through positive communication.

Youth sport has been and will continue to be a great platform to develop young people socially and emotionally. The current challenge we’re facing will certainly give us all a great lesson in resilience and determination.