We caught up with Nicola Lewis from Neath Afan on how clubs can encourage parents to get involved with their children's sport
Hi Nicola. Firstly, why do you think it is important for parents to get involved in their child’s sport development?
The success of children in sport is a direct result of great teamwork from gymnast, coach and parent. If one of those links are not fully engaged the process becomes very difficult or will potentially fail.
Complex sports like gymnastics require a higher percentage of commitment than most other sports at a young age. It's not possible for parents to fully support their child unless they understand the requirements of the sport and the needs of their child athlete. Equally, parents need to be engaged as part of the team so they understand where the limits are between being a positive, supportive and pushy parent - which can become extremely unhelpful.
Neath Afan has a highly regarded and promoted culture which puts the child’s needs first and their sporting success second. It is our mission to ensure that every child can be the best they can, where they choose to be in the gym over anywhere else.
Of course, safety is paramount when it comes to apparatus set up, skill development and coach understanding; however, we believe that a child’s emotional safety is equally, if not, more important.
We encourage two-way communication between our coaches and gymnasts so that they feel comfortable communicating anything from an injury they have developed, if they feel unwell or they are simply having a bad day.
We provide as much information as we can to the parents regarding their child’s progress with information packs and regular meetings.
Our recreational programmes have ‘student diaries’ to record their successes, with an opportunity for parents to ask questions and coaches to offer feedback.
We always encourage parents to ask questions if they are ever unsure about anything - initially by email or via a direct meeting if deemed necessary. We encourage parents to watch their children as frequently as they can in recreational programmes and offer termly viewing weeks for our competition programmes.
Our specific parents and toddler group, Bunnyhops, encourages parents to be totally engaged with the session. Each session offers a variety of different themed warm-ups and fun apparatus set-ups that allow parents to directly support their child under the guidance of a highly qualified coach. Our priority is fun and safety, and as a result, both parent and toddler will learn.
We also offer FuntastiX which is a daytime open play programme for pre-schoolers where adult and child can come and go as they please throughout the day. The activities are supervised and guided, but not coached, enabling the children to explore, discover and learn with less formality.
It is difficult at times to ensure parent engagement, but we utilise many positive ways of encouraging this with suggestions on how parents can help their children get more from each session. We often find that it is a lack of understanding or fear of harm that holds a parent back.
Gymittee is a parent-led team that actively fundraises for the club to enable us to purchase additional or replace damaged equipment. The Gymittee fundraiser also helps fund away trips and purchase new competition clothing.
The parents organise (and run) competitions and a weekly café. They help with setting up the gym for competitions, designing/producing leaflets, organising bag packing days, and many more social activities within the community.
Thanks to the Gymittee fundraising activity, the club can now offer a higher level of sponsorship to the children on the competition programmes, helping to reduce costs.
For more information on how clubs and coaches can encourage parents to get involved click here.