Tag: Sport

Podcast: Helping Kids to Enjoy Sport

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Tips to Calm a Toddler in Distress : On-air Consultation

Last week Dr Kimberley O’Brien spoke to a local magazine about how to help children enjoy sport. We recorded this and would like to share it with you as a podcast and transcript below.

Quirky Kid runs our popular performance psychology program, Power Up!


 

[00:00:00-00:00:16] Doctor Kimberley O’Brien introduces the challenge of getting children to enjoy sports. 

Hi. You’re listening to Dr. Kimberley O’Brien, child psychologist at the Quirky Kid Clinic. We’re talking today about why kids might dislike school sports, and whether parents should be concerned, as well as how to encourage children to enjoy sports.


 

[00:00:16-00:02:56] Often children dislike school sports because of negative experiences, such as sensitivity to loud and overwhelming environments, pressure from authorities, perfectionism, discomfort with competitive environments, and lack of exposure to sports as a positive experience. 

About why kids might dislike school sports, or sports in general: often it can come from negative experience. It could be that kids could be enrolled, even as toddlers, in some indoor KinderGyms or soccer lessons, that might have lots of noise, whistles, and other kids. If children are sensitive to their environment or have sensory issues, sometimes they can find these environments quite stressful.

Think about what negative experiences kids might have gone through in the past which might impact their perception of sports. Sometimes it’s pressure from parents to participate, or even a negative relationship with a coach, that might put them off the idea of participating in sports.

Other kids might be perfectionists and find it sort of frustrating or embarrassing to try a new skill. When they’re not good at something they refuse to participate, and they just don’t want to fail. Sometimes that can be one reason behind kids not feeling comfortable with team sports.

Another idea could be that they are not comfortable in a competitive environment. In some schools, children do become competitive with sports. Teachers can encourage competition between kids. Thinking about how the child might feel, they may feel inadequate or self-conscious when they’re in a competitive environment.

And another possibility around a child’s negative experience related to sports, could be that parents have had similarly negative experiences with sports. So parents might actually be reluctant to seek out opportunities for kids to participate in sports, just trying to be protective with their children and not wanting to put them in a competitive sports environment. They may avoid sports and maybe favour technology, for example, instead of sports. So when kids get to school, the idea of participating in sports might not be something that they’ve experienced before on a regular basis.

Other well-meaning parents might start off kids in a soccer or nippers type of environment, where there’s lots and lots of kids learning a new skill. And this can also be overwhelming for children.


 

[00:02:56-00:06:27] When you introduce kids to sports, start small, in low-pressure environments. Respect their resistance, and praise them for their efforts and improvements. It’s also important for parents to build a positive relationship with the trainer and model participation sports. For perfectionist kids, have them study theory online before attempting to physically learn a new skill. 

So when you’re thinking about how to introduce kids to sports, here’s some tips on how to do that:

Step one, start with a small environment, a few kids. Think about how to increase their exposure to sports gradually. You might use a soft toy rather than a ball when you’re practicing catching or throwing, at home in a safe setting. Or instead of starting small, you might enroll your child in a one-on-one coaching clinic. For example, tennis, rather than starting with a large group setting like soccer or large team sports.

It’s also really important to build a positive relationship with the coach or trainer. This will help young people to feel safe with that unfamiliar adult, and to boost their motivation to go along on a regular basis. Parents can probably relate to this one when it comes to choosing the right swim teacher for their toddler. If the relationship is really positive between parent and teacher, then often kids will feel safer and be more interested in participating. Having a regular coach or trainer rather than having a different person each week will also help kids to feel more comfortable, more willing to participate.

Another point when it comes to helping kids cope with sports, is to respect their resistance. So if kids are resistant to participating, don’t push them or punish them. Try to praise any improvements that you’ve noticed. “It’s great that I saw you watching the other kids today.” “I noticed you were listening to the instructor today.” Just highlighting the positives rather than letting them know what they’re not doing.

It might also be worthwhile to shop around and find an environment that suits you and your child. It could be that something more open. For example, circus skills with a free trial lesson might make you and your young person feel more comfortable, rather than paying in advance for a full term and then increasing the pressure on participating week after week.

Parents are also encouraged to model participation sports. That could just be playing beach soccer or backyard cricket. Leading by example will help young people also want to participate. Sometimes just laughter will help to lighten the mood when it comes to participating in sports, but adults should keep in mind that it’s good to laugh when adults are playing sports, but not so much when a child’s learning a new skill. Try and refrain from laughing if they’re struggling with a new skill, because kids might become self-conscious.

For those kids that I mentioned before, that may be perfectionists and prefer to not participate until they’re good at a particular skill – these kids often benefit from doing online tutorials before they even practically participate. Lots of theory and following instructions online can make kids feel comfortable enough to attempt to ride a bike or attempt to serve a tennis ball. So keep that in mind as well.


 

[00:06:27-00:08:35] Performance psychology offers a few tips on how to help kids enjoy sports. Let them choose their sport, give them breaks, point out their improvements, and praise them for trying. Make sure that they’re doing sports in a low-pressure environment that praises effort over results. Get them to score how much effort they put into their sport on a weekly basis, and hopefully you will see improvement over time as they get more comfortable. 

Now just finishing up: I’m going to take you through final tips to help kids, teachers, and parents, and help kids to enjoy sports more. All this information is linked to performance psychology. We know that Olympians often use performance psychology such as goal-setting, arousal regulation, and positive self-talk to help them get the best out of their sporting performance. You can find out more about this in our “Power Up” program which is the only performance psychology program for children, developed by Quirky Kid. So if you want to find out more, have a look at “Power Up” on the quirkykid.com.au website.


 

So these final tips are: let your child choose their sport. Having more choice will increase participation and motivation. Number two, give them regular breaks. Number three, point out their improvements, not their problems with the new skills. Number four, praise your kids for trying. It’s really important to be mindful of the environment in which they’re learning that new sport or participating in sports. So if there’s competition or a coach putting pressure or putting down students that are not reaching the results that they would like, remember to look for a new environment that praises effort over results. And last but not least, ask kids to score themselves in terms of effort. That might give them a 6/10 for the first week, and then get them to monitor their effort week after week. Over time I would hope that as they feel more comfortable in the environment, they are more likely to want to go back and continue practicing that new sport.

All right, I hope you’ve enjoyed that little session about kids and sports. And keep in touch! I’m Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid Clinic. Thanks for listening.

 

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Young athletes and performers

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Many young people are beginning to push the boundaries of their chosen pursuit to an elite or professional level from their early teens. It is not uncommon to begin representing your country whilst still in high school, or begin professional or semi-professional careers in the performing arts industry.

There are many challenges associated with being a young athlete or performer and it is important to look after yourself and your future. Here are some tips which may help keep things on the up and up.

1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Although you might feel like you should do nothing but train or practice it actually won’t do you any favours in terms of your performance. At the Australian Institute of Sport, the program originally saw athletes focus on nothing but their sport, but they found that the performances went downhill badly!! Why? If you have all your eggs in one basket it’s much harder to take risks and really push yourself to the limits of your performance. You are great at what you do, but you are much more than just your athletic talent or creative ability. Remember to develop yourself as a whole person and keep your studies, job, social life and family relationships as normal as possible.

2. Use setbacks as opportunities for learning

There is no doubt that reaching the elite or professional level as a teenager means that you have a lot of talent! Lots of younger athletes and performers have found themselves moving quite smoothly up the ranks of their pursuit however major snags can occur once you reach the bigger pool of other international and/or professional competitors. You can make every experience count, even if your performance was dismal! Take note of your strengths and identify your weaknesses, then set about learning from your mistakes. Work with your coaches, teachers, agents or psychologist to target difficulties and fast track your progress to becoming a seasoned competitor so that your talent and hard work can pay off when it counts!

3. Don’t buy into the hype!

Many talented young athletes and performers fail to reach their potential, or quickly spark then burn out when  they get stuck in the “lifestyle” associated with international success and a public profile. Athletes and performers who achieve long-term success usually stay well grounded, keeping everything in perspective.  Work with your coaches, teachers, agents, psychologist or media trainer to feel confident and in control in the public arena.

4. Look after yourself

You dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to train and practice to achieve success and reach your potential, however like everyone else, you can become ill or injured. When you are unwell or injured make sure your decisions are keeping your long-term future in mind as well as your present needs. Always consult with medical professionals when making decisions about coming back from illness or injury.

The content of this fact-sheet is part of the Power Up! workshop by Quirky Kid. We provide psychological services to a range of young elite athletes and performer.

For more information on the Power Up! Program, visit our workshop pages. The Power Up! was already implemented in schools like the Illawarra Grammar schools.

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Reference:
Gould D, Dieffenbach K (2003). Psychological issues in youth sports: competitive anxiety, overtraining, and burnout. In: Malina RM, Clark MA (eds). Youth Sports: Perspectives for a New Century. Coaches Choice, Monterey, CA, pp 149–70.

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Power Up! @ Illawarra Grammar

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Power Up! By Quirky Kid

Image from the Just Like When Cards by Quirky Kid

During two days next week, 10 young athletes from Illawarra Grammar  School in Wollongong will be lucky to participate in the Power Up! workshop by The Quirky Kid Clinic.

This activity-based workshop is designed for children and young people training and competing at club, regional, state and national level in their chosen sports, academic pursuits or the performing arts. The workshop explores an abundance of psychological skills and techniques practiced by Olympians, academics, prima ballerinas and musical soloists in order to compete at their very best. The workshop has been developed by psychologist Belinda Jones and incorporates her experience working with athletes at the Australian Institute of Sport.

Belinda Jones, a Quirky Kid Child Psychologist, will facilitate the workshop with the support from school staff!

The Power Up! is also offered in the clinical setting. Visit our workshop page to find out the next date. If you would like to arrange a workshop for high-performing students at your school, please contact us on 02 93 62 9297.

 

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