Episode 21 - Inviting parents into the sport experience

Episode 21 October 24, 2023 00:33:35
Episode 21 - Inviting parents into the sport experience
Episode 21 - Inviting parents into the sport experience

Oct 24 2023 | 00:33:35


Hosted By

Steve Indig Dina Bell-Laroche

Show Notes

Welcome to Sportopia, the place to re-imagine the future of sport! This week’s episode welcomes a conversation about inviting parents and guardians into the sport experience. Hosted by Dina Bell-Laroche and Steve Indig, partners of Sport Law, this episode includes both their professional and personal experiences to talk about the role that parents and guardians play in the sport experiences of their children. Throughout the episode, our hosts discuss how parents can contribute to positive sport experiences for their children and how sport organizations can support and invite parents in to foster positive sport environments with high trust.

Check out more blogs from Sport Law to learn more:

As well, here is some additional information related to our conversation today:

Email us at [email protected] or contact us on social media @sportlawca to let us know what you want us to discuss next. We want to hear from you! Stay tuned for new episodes every two weeks!

Hosts: Dina Bell-Laroche and Steve Indig
Producer: Taylor Matthews 

Learn more about how Sport Law works in collaboration with sport leaders to elevate sport at sportlaw.ca

The Sportopia Podcast is recorded on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We wish to thank these First Peoples who continue to live on these lands and care for them, and whose relationship with these lands existed from time immemorial. We are grateful to have the opportunity to live, work, and play on these lands. 

Sport Law is committed to recognizing, supporting, and advocating for reconciliation in Canada and to actively work against colonialism by amplifying Indigenous voices and increasing our own understanding of local Indigenous people and their cultures.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Hi, it's Steve indigot sport Law. Leave me a message. I'll get back to you as soon as I can. [00:00:07] Speaker B: Hey, Steve, it's Dina. You aren't going to believe what just came across my desk. We need to chat. Give me a call. [00:00:26] Speaker A: Welcome to the latest episode of Sportopia. We're so excited to share our knowledge and have conversations about healthy human sport. Today's episode will be talking about a critical component of keeping sport fun, safe, and welcoming for children and youth. That's the role that parents and guardians play in shaping the kind of experience their children will have. [00:00:49] Speaker B: Parents assume many roles in sport, including cheerleaders, chauffeur, snack organizers, managers, coaches, and advocates for their child. They often also play a role in the administration of the club their child participates in, like sitting on a committee or becoming a board member. Today's conversation is going to focus on how parents and guardians can contribute to a healthy sport experience for their children. So, Steve, before we get started, what's coming across your desk this week? [00:01:17] Speaker A: I love this question because it makes me think about what's going on in our world and in my world, professionally and personally. Pre COVID. Dina, I was probably on an airplane twice a month, traveling across the country to meet our clients, to provide educational sessions, to attend board meetings or annual general meetings. And of course, during the pandemic, travel became slim to none. So I'm really excited over the last month and for the next few months that I will get to jump on a plane again and see our friends and our clients across the country to remind people what they look like from the neck down. With zoom being a constant form of communication, being able to see the rest of people is quite important. So I'm really excited. I've already started with you on some occasions to travel the country and to see people, and again, just to remind people that they're not alone, that there are people out there who they can talk to and hopefully provide solid advice or at least proper direction in dealing with their concerns. What's new with you? [00:02:27] Speaker B: Well, you and I have been spending a lot of time together on airplanes, and it's interesting. Steve, I think you're triggering something for me because of the nature of the work we've been doing. And when we gather again, which is what we've been doing through the Hope on the Horizon tour for the last seven, eight months, I'm noticing that people are feeling a little bit more hopeful by virtue of being in the same room together. And I think it's so important for us to remember that people come together in and through sport so that they can connect, they can feel like they belong, they can make a difference, they can give back. So thank you for that. And what's come across my desk this week is I'm getting interviewed by a journalism student because she's doing her story on grief and loss in sport and when she went to Google, Grief, Loss and Sport, I think we were fourth on the analytics, right after some academic articles on grief and loss in sport. There weren't that many and found a blog that I'd written several years ago. Well, I've written quite a few, but so she's tracked me down and I'm going to have a conversation with her about the particular kind of grief that can set in for children and youth and then who become athletes. So I'm excited about that. Leave it to me, Steve, to be excited. [00:03:44] Speaker A: You know where my mind's going. Just recently in our travels, I borrowed your pen and of course you're the only person who I possibly would know who carries a funeral pen labeled of a funeral parlor. So I do, of course, appreciate what you do with a little laughter. [00:04:02] Speaker B: Yeah, of course we can't take ourselves too seriously, and I think that's the gift when we can talk about some of these issues, right? When we can grapple with the dark side of the human experience, it reminds us of how important it is to be healthy and holistic, which is what we really want to talk about today, right? We really want to talk about our role as parents. So not just our role as professionals, but both of us have been heavily involved in the sporting air, quote, careers of our children. Mine are now they've all grown, but they're still not all flown from the nest. They're still all engaged in sport. But I'm nowhere near as involved as I was when the three of them were playing hockey and skiing and swimming and playing soccer. And I know you're now really starting to become entrenched on the pitch with one of your children. So what do you think, Steve, is the most important thing that parents and guardians need to know to ensure their children are having what we would call a positive, flourishing, healthy, holistic sport experience? [00:05:08] Speaker A: I think the answer is relatively easy and hard to do and that's really ask questions. I think that we as parents in sport make a lot of assumptions about a kids program, about a sport club, maybe about a particular sport, without asking questions. And those questions we can provide a pretty lengthy list with respect to, of course, from my side of the shop, do you have insurance? What kind of insurance do you have? What are the exclusions related to insurance? How do I make an insurance claim without insurance? Your child in the event of an injury or of a negligence claim. There's nothing to claim. So it's really important from that perspective to understand what kind of protection that the club is providing your child while they participate. And of course, that could lead into a million other questions. What kind of screening do you do to hire your coach, who's likely a volunteer parent? What do you do to ensure that they are educated, to provide a safe environment or to deal with children. And I'll pass it back to you, Dina. But also, again, more questions, questions? What's your philosophy? What are your I actually, as you mentioned, my son is very involved in competitive sport. My daughter is involved more on the art world. But last night, my son's baseball team, which is a competitive team, there was a parent meeting to discuss the upcoming season, which is in April. It's now the fall. And the intent of the meeting was really to talk about culture and values, which was something I know dear to your heart. So it was really important for the coaches to express their vision of the season coming up, the way in which they're going to educate the team on values and how we're going to live those values throughout the season. So I was really happy to see that happen. [00:07:06] Speaker B: Yeah. Thanks, Steve. I would say yes. And I loved that we talked about this before we jumped on the podcast. When our children are know, we have all these checklists that the pediatrician or the doctor is looking for these milestones, right? And so parents and we know that when our children are four or five, they're going to go to school and we don't really think a lot about these things. Right. We kind of are learning, especially with child number one. As we go along in sport, though, we have so much more choice. And so as parents, what I love about what you're saying is we need to educate ourselves on what would be the fundamental, what we would call physical literacy skills and which sports are best equipped to do that. So we would say right from the beginning, all children need to learn how to swim. It's a survival skill. The second thing we would offer is kids will thrive if they understand how to be and play in snow because we still as vast majority of Canada has snow covering it. And so being able to be literate on skis, for instance, and on skates, super important. And then fundamental physical literacy around running and biking, which for the vast majority of parents, you don't have to put your kid in a club. Part of what I'm noticing, and my kids are like 1821 and 24 now, so they're young adults. But we spent so much time with the kids before we put them into a more club based focus. We just spent a lot of time with them, teaching them the fundamental skills of movement and loving the quest to learn something new and being with family and community, playing in the park, going for walks in nature. So before we dive into what do parents need to know to ensure a positive sport experience? Remember, you don't have to put your kid in a club for them to have a really healthy experience with sport. And so I would say so important for parents to understand and appreciate physical literacy and where they get into trouble is, I don't know about you, but my early connection to sport wasn't all that positive, right? I remember being on the school playground and they would pick the really talented athletes. And I wasn't one of the talented athletes. I was more late stage developer, and so I often got excluded. And my early experiences in sport, I know, are mirrored by lots and lots of people. So I'm coming at this maybe a little bit differently. I think parents need to a acknowledge that sport and physical activity and movement is so fundamental to healthy human development and for them to check their own assumptions and biases before they start thinking about where they want to put their kid in a more traditional or conventional sport experience. They can do so much good by modeling a healthy experience through daily physical activity and movement. [00:10:10] Speaker A: My wife and I'd like to say Dina, were quite athletic, and I'd like to say hopefully we still are in some respects. And it was really important to the two of us that our kids were physically able to participate in sport and we really didn't have aspirations. Although my kids, of course, are going to the major leagues or NBA or whatever they decide. [00:10:32] Speaker B: Of course they are. [00:10:33] Speaker A: Of course they are. Or the WNBA. And our philosophy was to have them be sport literate and to be able to skate and ski and run and jump and throw and swim. And figured if we gave them those fundamentals, they would figure out the activities that they like to participate in and they would choose to thrive or focus on that activity or sport if they so chose to do so. That was really our philosophy and my background, being competitive swimmer. It's interesting. My kids have no interest in doing that, which is fine, because they have other interests, and I'm very excited to watch them grow. But I really look at it from two perspectives of giving them the tools to be successful in any area of sport or recreation they want to be involved in, but also that when there's that opportunity, like you said. When there's a school soccer game or school hockey game or shiny game or class activity to go swimming, that they have the ability to participate. And that was really the focus of what we're trying to do with our kids right now. [00:11:40] Speaker B: It's interesting. I'll take us back to my doctor, right, the pediatrician. He and I had several conversations, as you can imagine. And one of them, I asked him as the children were growing up, he would ask, how is their growth and development? And he would talk about are they involved in physical activity and in school sports? And alongside all the other things, right, the developmental milestones around their height, their weight, and everything else. And so it got me thinking that pediatricians and general practitioners could be such an important advocate for equipping parents with basic and what we would say, fundamental knowledge around the importance of putting your kids, exposing them to quality, daily physical activity, the vast majority of which you don't need to write a paycheck for. You don't need to write a check to say, let's go outside for a long walk. Let's go run. Let's go play with the Frisbee. I think that as sport right now is starting to talk about sport 2.0 A Reimagining, because the system, the structure, is just not designed to meet the needs of this 21st century expectation. I think we're now trying to reclaim sport and reengage parents in the simple fundamentals. I'm a proponent and advocate for true sport, and I would say that all parents, as part of that checklist, ought to be asking the club, to what extent are you ensuring true sport on the field of play? And in Norway, about a decade ago, they came up with this ethos, if you will, this promotional campaign, this philosophy called The Joy of Sport, and they actually looked at true sport as a model to inspire a reimagining of the Norwegian experience. And I don't have to tell you, Norway was on the top of the podium at the last Olympics. So it's really important, I think, for us to understand that medals are important. And we're going to move into some of the challenges that we see when parents are involved in the more organized, structured aspect of sport. Medals are one way that we can assess whether or not we're doing right, but we would say it's partial beyond medals. We need to ensure that the kids are having fun, that they're having a positive, holistic experience. So what do you think is getting in the way when you think of parents and guardians? Steve, what do you think some of the problems and how long do we have? Right? [00:14:16] Speaker A: How long do we have? But I'll share my own philosophy. A lot of it has to do with projection, and not the projection of a movie on the back of a wall, but I think projection of our own expectations as parents on our children to be the best player on the team, or wholly maybe strive to ascertain a scholarship or the professional level. And again, I'll speak about my son, who started off on a competitive baseball program probably at the age of seven or eight. And there was a lot of conversation. And looking back at it now, which has been about six years, there's a lot of conversation about which one of these kids do you think is going to make it? And as they progress through their careers, the answer is probably none of them. But you never know what can happen between the age of 13 and 18. So I think projections and chasing the dream is a very relevant component. And again, share one quick story about my son again, he was on a competitive basketball team and he practiced that practice, but he really wouldn't go in the backyard and work on his skills or have some intentional training. He would go out in the back and shoot and have fun, which, don't get me wrong, is great. And that's how it starts in my mind. I wanted him to be a little bit more focused on the way he trained and the consistency of his training. So their season started and they went ten, and so they were a very good team, one of the top ranked teams in Ontario, and then they came across a team that beat them by 40. And I was like, this is my opportunity to say, look, you guys are good, but you're not that good. And there's this team that just whooped you and you need to practice more. So after the game, we get in the car and I said, how was that? And I expected him to say, that wasn't a lot of fun, and I need to work harder, and, dad, what do I do to get better? And his response to me was, dad, that was fun. I had a good time, and I didn't really care about the score out. [00:16:24] Speaker B: Of the mouth of Babes, so I. [00:16:26] Speaker A: Had a double sided reaction to that, going, wow, that was really mature and awesome, and now I have nothing to say. But the other side of it was, damn it, I missed an opportunity to try and motivate him to train more, which is obviously not necessarily his goal at this time. And so me projecting onto what I think he can become as an athlete, it's hard. It's hard to control that, and I think I do a pretty good job of it. Listening to him and talking to him and hearing how he responds to my sometimes leading questions. [00:17:06] Speaker B: Counselor, that's a leading question. Yes. I love it. I love that. Well, you're self aware, Steve, and even for people like you and I, we went into the sport experience with our eyes wide open, right? So you got me thinking for any of our listeners, there's a great and we'll put this in the show notes. There's a great link to a social media campaign called The Car Ride Home that was done by our friends at the Canadian Center for Ethics and Sport that talks about this little window of opportunity as we're driving our children to sport. And then the big game happens, and then how do we want to be following the game? And so it's a dark PSA, and we're getting hit with this as we travel across the country. Steve right. Most of the response to this question, what does sport need in order for sport to be healthy and human? What does it need to be? And you said it, and so did your son. It was fun. It has to be fun, because when it's fun. We're staying in, we're engaging, we're learning. Right? Even the hard work is still enjoyable for me with parents, I think that we and you just said it, we need to be really mindful that this is their experience. And our friends at Respect in Sport have done, I think, some extraordinary work over the last 20 years and have a parent module that really teaches us about how to show up as parents, how to not live vicariously through our children, how to be clear about what they need from us. So I think there's some really good education there so that parents go in. I think what gets in the way is that unlike other playgrounds where our children are interacting and interfacing, so think of school. They're not in a fishbowl. In school, you don't have the parents on the outside looking at how their kids are air, quote, performing in the classroom. But when they're competing as children on the field of play, we're there. They're in a fishbowl, they are exposed. And parents all have, I think, an opinion about what the coach should be doing, shouldn't be doing, who should be starting, where they should be playing. And because the literacy of most parents around healthy child development is relatively low, and I don't mean to be calling people out, I'm actually trying to invite people to kind of lean in. Most parents aren't taught about the developmental stages of children. And if they were, they wouldn't be yelling, yelling obscenities to the children. Right, kill them. Get her. Right, hit the ball. Because I've parented three children, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly on the fields. And I think we need to really do some heavy education for the parents so that when they go in as supportives of their children, they go in informed and very mindful. The final thing I'll say is many, many parents, because their kids are on the field of play and they're spending time there, and because community sport, 95, 96% of it relies on parents as volunteers to make the club function, they are often wearing lots of different hats, right? So as a parent, I was manager, I was the chief orange cutter. I was also the boo boo tender. I was coach for several of my children's teams, and then I was many of them at the same time simultaneously. What I chose not to do was to be on the board because of my role with sport law. And I would say that the vast majority of people who are on the board, their children are on the rep side of the experience. And that creates all kinds of perceived and real conflicts. So those are some of the sticky issues that I think are contributing to some of the woes that we're seeing in modern day sport. [00:21:14] Speaker A: I am one of those volunteer coaches, Dina, on both of my son's teams. And one of the fundamental things that we've all agreed to as a coaching staff is that we really won't talk to our own children about what's happening on the playing field. We let the other coach do that so it doesn't become a contentious part of our relationship, is that there's concern about work ethic or improvement or constructive feedback when it comes from another coach who's not the parent. We've seen a lot of value in that. And it'll be really funny. Like sometimes the coach will be walking by and say, like, go talk to my kid, tell them to fix this, which is fine. And I've touched base with my son on routine times to say, are you still okay with me coaching? Would you prefer that I don't and just sit in the stands? And his response to date has always been, no, I love having you there and it's great to share this experience with you. So I'm of course going to continue to take advantage of that. But I think there's a lot of different things that we can do to make sure that the relationship between a parent and their child isn't just how successful they are on a recreational or competitive boarding environment. And again, when you were chatting there, Dina, all I kept running through my head was, and we've all seen it, the parent in the stands yelling. I remember one particular goalie. Dad was standing behind the goalie in this very tiny rink and screaming to his son in a house league program. I mean, these kids could no joke, barely stand up and let alone skate. And Dads back there yelling. And I think most kids are at a sport or organizational sport by the age of twelve or 13 because of negative experiences. I just think we have to be cognitive of the relationship we create with our kids. [00:23:04] Speaker B: I love that, Steve, and that is such a fantastic tip. I hadn't thought about that well, because most of the time when I was coaching, I was lucky if I had an assistant coach. Right. I love I think that is such a great tip. So that you are parent always, right? That's your first and most important job. And it is true that lots of parents, I was one of them, you tend to be harder on your own kid because you don't want people to perceive that you're favoring your own child as if that was a bad thing. Of course I'm going to favor my child or my child, but we try and sanitize the experience. So in terms of some tips, you started with the tip. I think that's a fantastic tip, right? If you have a coaching bench, make sure you're not delivering the news. The child will receive it differently. I think that's really great. So a couple of other tips, some of which we've already covered. I would say, as a parent, do your homework. Right? So understand child appropriate, developmental appropriate sport experiences for your children. And we would say between the ages of zero and six, you don't really need to put your kid in a club. Right. You can do most of the physical literacy by mentoring, by femtoring, by being a good role model for your child. So that would be the first thing. When you are on the lookout for a club, really make sure that their philosophy and ethos is aligned with yours. We talked about that at the beginning. So how do you do that? Well, the delivery person, the person who's front line is the coach. And you're going to want to learn a little bit about this coach. So above and beyond all the things that you said, do they assure rule of two, do they do a police record check? Is the coach the right fit for your child? So I would say it should be mandated that every single experience in sport comes with a parent's meeting. If there isn't a parent meeting at the beginning to a socialize the team to each other because the team includes the parents. Right. We talk about the golden triangle of the parent, the coach and the athlete. Right. I think we need to expand it to a diamond that also includes the club administration. You can't have good sport on the field of play if you don't have a really healthy diamond kind of approach, is what I would offer. Steve. And we talked about true sport, right. As your orienting kind of framework to ensure that these seven principles are really being baked into the sport experience. The last tip I would offer, and I know this is your world in hockey, we talked about the 48 hours rule, right? I think it was 24 hours, but I would say it needs to be 48 hours. Take a moment. Don't start complaining about the coach and why they played this line and not that line. And so I think right at the beginning we have to be very clear of how are we going to resolve any kind of disagreement, any kind of tension before it escalates to needless conflict. How are we going to do that respectfully? And it has to be entrenched in policy. So the club should have that very available in the opening conversation with the parents. That parent meeting conflict should be talked about and there should be those cultural rules of the pool, so to speak, so that everybody's on the same page. Those would be some of the tips I have. [00:26:23] Speaker A: Steve, I like what you're saying and I would expand on it a little bit more and of course, share a couple of stories that relate to know communication is key, particularly at the competitive rep level. How much playing time are you going to get? What's the philosophy of the coaching staff? And recently I just heard a story where there was a new coach brought in to do a rep program. He called a parents meeting, expressed his philosophy, and then about 80% of the team left chose not to be involved with this coach based on the individual's philosophy, which didn't align with the rest of the team. And going through that experience with the teams that I coach, one of the fundamental issues that I always see is, yeah, there's coaching values and coaching culture, and then you also have to have what's the player's culture, they may not align with the coaching philosophy or the expectations. And I think communicating that and figuring that out amongst parents, amongst the coaching and amongst the players is fundamental. And you could add the association in there too. Dina, as you've alluded to, and I met somebody last weekend in BC who was talking about their philosophy as a club. And their goal was not to be the number one club in the province or the country, it was to provide an opportunity for kids to participate. And if they did want to pursue a more competitive program, they had recommendations, who was around the corner, who would offer that? And I love that. And it kind of segues into our last topic point here of how do sport organizations keep parents engaged, build trusting relationships and educate them. And for me, my mind just keeps going back to communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate. Let people know what your expectations are, let people know what your philosophies are, give them an opportunity to share their responses, their opinions, and come to a mutual ground. I know you're going to have a lot to add to this topic, but the last thing I want to say is I think we, as sport organizations, particularly maybe I'll target the provincial territorial level, is we really need to advocate what it means to be a sanctioned club, a sanctioned activity. And rather than just you and I just started to run a soccer program just on our own. But if we were affiliated with a provincial or national sport body, what does that mean? And I'd like to think it means that coaches are properly screened, that coaches are properly educated, that coaches are properly informed on how to manage difficult situations. And parents know when they come into that sanctioned environment. Those three things have happened, plus there's adequate insurance in place, plus there's proper procedures and policies to deal with complaints or privacy or whatever particular issue may come up. So I really think that sport could start advocating and educating what it means to be sanctioned, and that would align with parents starting to ask or be educated to ask the right questions. [00:29:32] Speaker B: Yeah, brilliant. Steve it got me thinking know, we've been around for a while, me a little bit longer than surprise. And I remember when we were doing risk management workshops with several national sport organizations, the common risk was the lack of capacity at the club level to really fulfill its duty of care to ensure this quality experience. And this is. I'm taking you back 15 years. So, out of that conversation, the Canadian Center for Ethics and Sport created something called Club Excellence, which was really a standards based approach to elevating what we would call the fundamentals of what it means to open up a sport club. And sadly, it was a bit think, you know, a great idea before its time. Right now, what I love what you're saying around elevating the standards or being know, Brene Brown says clear is kind. I think we really do have to have a much heavier push on what it means to be a member in good standing. So if I'm a soccer club and I'm a member of my provincial association, what does that actually mean? What are the must dos? And right now we would say it is woefully inadequate. So we have to elevate the capacity of what it means to be a member in good standing and so that parents have assurance that when I go to this club, I know that they're going to have all the required policies in place. The communication, you've already said it is so clear. Who are we as a club? What are the ways in which we're going to engage, right, communicate with our membership and then when things don't go well, how are we going to handle that? Right? So being really clear to me, Steve, I mean, people might disagree with me, but I would say we put way more quality assurance in how to ensure a good cup of coffee, right? So the franchise model for, let's say, Starbucks than we do to ensure a quality experience for our children. So I think we have to elevate the sector's capacity to fulfill its promise, to ensure that these young people, the vast majority of which are under 18, have an extraordinary experience and if and when they do, they're not going to leave at the ages of 1213 14 because it wasn't fun. So you and I as sector advocates would say we have to do way more to elevate the sector of capacity to fulfill its promise. And these are some of the ways in which we think we can do that, which in my opinion are reasonable hard when the system itself wasn't designed to meet these expectations. So that's probably fodder for the next podcast, but hopefully you've enjoyed some of what Steve and I as parents had to say about the conversation. And in the episode notes below, you're going to find some sport law blogs that might be helpful to you. It's going to give you some more information related to the conversation today. Thank you so much to all of our listeners. We're really grateful to share our vision of Sportopia with you as we look to collectively elevate sport as always, to. [00:32:42] Speaker A: Have your say in Sportopia. Email us at hello at sportlaw CA or on social media at sportlaw CA to let us know what you want to hear next. Stay tuned for our next thanks, Steve. Leave.

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