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How to motivate your children to do sport and fit it into your busy schedule

by Liz Marchant

We all know how important sport is for children. Not only is it integral for their health, they also learn important life skills such as teamwork and sportsmanship. However, it can be challenging for your child to find a sport they enjoy and, once they find it, fitting it into your schedule.

Start small

It’s hard to tell what type of sport or activity will appeal to your child, so don’t rush them into committing to a team or club straight away. Expose them to as many sports as possible, whether through attending a local match or watching the sport online. You might also involve them in simple activities like kicking a football or playing catch. Remember, this is only to gauge their interest, not their skills, as they may not have any!

Explore their interests

Your children will be exposed to many activities and sports at school, so ask them what sports they have been playing and what they like or dislike about them. This will give you an idea as to what their interests are, and other paths they could explore. For example, if your child says they enjoyed playing softball, they might enjoy other activities with similar hand-eye-coordination skills, such as tennis or cricket. Also ask them what sports their friends like to play and if they are part of any clubs or teams. Kids are more likely to participate in a sport if they have friends they can play alongside.

Do your research

If your child expresses strong interest in a particular sport, you need to be aware of the potential commitment. Find out about local clubs or coaches and look into the time that is required each week. Every sport is different and some require more practice and games than others. For example, a rugby team may require two practices and one game per week while social tennis may happen on a Saturday morning only. Some schools offer after-school sports, so reach out to your child’s teachers for options or recommendations. Some basic research and understanding will let you determine what is feasible for your schedule.

Ask for flexibility

If your child needs to be dropped off at sport once or twice a week, and your workplace supports flexibility, you may suggest starting work an hour earlier on sport days or working later on other days. It’s important to be prepared to provide a viable solution for remaining productive at work while accommodating your needs.

Set expectations

Once your child has found a sport they love it is common for them to crave the support of their parents and want to show off their new skills but the reality is it’s not always possible to get to every single game or practice. It is important that you set expectations with your kids for how often or for how long you can be there. If you have a partner, you may be able to share the responsibilities and take turns in supporting your child. Alternatively, if you can watch the last half an hour of every game or attend every second match, that could be a reasonable compromise. Of course, this will depend on the nature and frequency of your child’s sport. As long as you manage their expectations in advance and develop a consistent pattern that your child can rely on, they will know what to expect.

Develop a carpool system

Often other parents involved in your child’s sport will be in the same boat as you regarding work schedules. If you child is involved in a local club, perhaps you can suggest a carpool system. If that isn’t feasible, you can still call upon other parents for favours for those times when you get stuck in traffic or have an evening work event. Just remember to reciprocate.

Maximise the time

You can use the time while your child is at practice to catch up on work, whether it’s conference calls or emails. You can even use the time to fit in your own exercise. For example, if your child plays a field-based sport, you could walk laps around the grounds. Even better, you could potentially combine walking and work calls to kill three birds with one stone!